Reel Deal Goes to the Movies: Notorious at the Redford (join the discussion!) Theater!!!!!

July 27, 2013 4 Comments

The Redford Theatre reopened in July with Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Notorious”, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.  Screening and discussion was held on Saturday, July 27 at 2pm.

Reel Deal Goes to the Movies
4 Comments to “Reel Deal Goes to the Movies: Notorious at the Redford (join the discussion!) Theater!!!!!”
  1. Robert MacDonell says:

    Yesterday Reel Deal conducted another of our film discussions after the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. Bruce Russell and Kathy Moore did a great job facilitating the discussion, and the audience of over 50 people who participated were enthusiastic and contributed a great deal.

    Many thanks to Linda Sites, Steve, and Alan Fitzgerald at the Redford Theatre for hosting our discussion and providing us with such a warm welcome and outstanding technical support. The newly remodeled theatre was a fabulous venue for a discussion about a great film.

    Judging from the participants comments after the discussion, everyone seemed to enjoy themeselves immensely!

    Some movie critics have called Notorious the perfect film. Both a thriller and a love story, it was the perfect combination to keep eyes riveted on the screen. Even Hitchcock himself said that Notorious was his favorite among all of his films.

    Many in the audience had insightful questions and picked up on the moral and ethical tensions in the relationship between Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) and Devlin (Cary Grant). And many seniors in the audience commented on having vivid recollections of living through the post WWII and early Cold War era depicted in the film. They remarked about the strong sense of patriotism that pervaded the country at the time and the romanticism before and after the war. ‘Duty and family’, someone said, filled the air during this period. Citizens were simultaneously relieved by the ending of the war and tense about the the looming cold war. Notorious captured this tension and romance and so was perfectly reflective of its time.

    Who were the sinister men plotting with Alex? Escaped Nazi’s? Communists? What was the the sand in the wine bottles…uranium ore?
    How did Hitchcock know to use uranium ore as a plot device?

    Did you know that the FBI was reported to have had surveillance on Hitchcock after the movie’s release? Notorious was in production in 1945…..but, before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and released afterward in 1946. How did Hitchcock know to use such a plot device in this film before atomic weapons and their components became common knowledge and widely discussed?

    These are just a few of the highlights stemming from the discussion yesterday. Were you there? If so, we’d like to hear more of your comments. If you were not there yesterday, but saw the film, we’d like to hear from you too.

    Please add your comments to this ongoing discussion of Notorious.


  2. Bruce Russell says:

    A small correction to what I said yesterday. The FBI learned of the script being written by Hitchcock and Ben Hecht in 1944 that included reference to uranium. They wondered how they knew about uranium’s importance. Brian Eggert writing on a wonderful site called Definitives (which offers in depth reviews of classic films) says that Hitchcock found out about the importance of uranium from British actors who were employed as spies by the British Ministry of Intelligence. David O. Selznick had been the producer for Notorious, but he and Hitchcock disagreed about whether uranium was a good MacGuffin, a plot device that is not essential to the plot but helps further the story along (sort of like a film catalyst!). Selznick thought that few would understand its significance. Ultimately, Selznik sold the rights to the film to RKO for 800K and washed his hands of the project.

    I hope those who were at the discussion yesterday contribute to this discussion. Because of your comments, I’ve thought more about whether what Alicia’s father said at the start of the film was a MacGuffin and what temporarily soured the relationship between Alicia and Devlin.

    Do go to the Definitives site to read a very thorough review by Eggert (not to be confused with Ebert!).

  3. There is a another terrific article by Richard Abel in a book entitled “The Hitchcock Reader” which provides an excellent microanalysis of the Hitchcock’s film technique and style. Did you notice, for instance the way the camera shifts from Alicia’s POV (as when she is driving in the car with Devlin and we see her hair flying in front of her visual field) and then we see the camera looking at her as she is driving or when Devlin enters her bedroom and we see him upside down as she sees him. How does this shift us into her perspective?
    This is a very visual movie, even though the dialogue is first rate (thanks to Ben Hecht)
    Abel speaks about the shifting of expectations and identifications that the spectator is guided (or persuaded or manipulated) to make.

    And how about Hitchcock’s thwarting of the Decency Code with THAT KISS!!!!!!
    I really love this movie!!! (p.s. I also agree that the information about Alicia’s father was not a MacGuffin..not in 1946!(

  4. Bruce Russell says:

    My general view of things is that the more you understand them, the simpler they get. I think the key to understanding why Devlin did not object to Alicia’s taking the assignment of spying on Sebastian is to be found in their conversation at the race track. She says, “I see [your not stopping me from taking the job] was some kind of love test.” He replies, “That’s right,” and then gives his reasoning: It wouldn’t have been pretty if I had believed in you, if I’d figured, “She’d never be able to go through with this, she’s been made over by love.”

    Made explicit his reasoning is:

    1. If she is no longer a notorious bad girl because she has been made over by her love for me, then she won’t take this job that requires her to seduce Sebastian.
    2. But she did take the job.
    3. So she is still a bad girl who has not been made over by her love for me.

    Having reached that conclusion, but still loving Alicia, Devlin is jealous of Sebastian and bitter towards her. In the rescue scene where Devlin comes to Alicia in her bedroom, he tells her that he loves her and adds, “Long ago, all the time, since the beginning.”

    Devlin’s reasoning goes wrong at the first step. His first premise should have been:

    1*If she is no longer a notorious bad girl because she has been made over by her love for me, then she won’t take this job that requires her to seduce Sebastian UNLESS THERE IS SOME OTHER REASON SHE HAS FOR TAKING THE JOB.

    As it turns out, there is some other reason. At the race track, Alicia asks Devlin why he didn’t stop her from taking the job, and in the bedroom she says to him, “You love me. Why didn’t you tell me before?” Because Devlin wanted to test whether Alicia had changed, he did not want to stop her from taking the job, nor give her any encouragement not to take it by telling her he loved her. And, ironically, because he did not stop her, nor tell her that he loved her, she took the job! Devlin wrongly concluded that Alicia had not changed because she failed his test (and maybe that she also did not love him), but the correct explanation of why she failed it and took the job had to do with what HE failed to say and do, not with her not changing or not loving him.

    The tragedy of two people who loved each other failing to unite was averted only because Devlin’s love was intense enough to drive him to see Alicia and “speak his piece” before leaving for Spain to avoid the pain he felt at seeing Sebastian and Alicia together. We can understand the romantic part of the film if we see it as two people who were truly in love but whose relationship soured because they both misinterpreted the other person’s choices and actions (including failures to act and speak). They avoided a tragic ending because Devlin ultimately does what he should have done all along, declare his love for Alicia.

    Admittedly, this is a very simple interpretation of much of what goes on between Devlin and Alicia. It is not nearly as complex as some psychoanalytic, feminist, and marxist interpretations of the film you might encounter. But as in science so in interpretation: simplicity is a virtue of theories.

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