I went into this knowing only of the long kiss scene in the first act, where Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman lock lips while walking slowly across a room toward a phone, which is famous not only for its duration (though it’s not quite a minute, I don’t think) but for how Hitchcock made it feel like a continuous kiss even though it’s strategically broken up here and there in subtle ways that do nothing to disrupt the mood but, on paper, could be cited in defiance of censors who might wanna argue that the kiss is too long. Technically, it’s a long succession of little kisses.
The documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, about the latter (young) director’s marathon interview with the former (older) director, shows — as does Donald Spoto’s great biography The Dark Side of Genius — how Hitchcock was known, for the prime years of his career, as the simple storyteller who put out a decent thriller every year but not so much as a craftsman, which is how he wanted to see himself. he lamented that the critical world didn’t take him seriously.
The Truffaut book, a long transcript that breaks down just how much thought went into the making of Hitch’s films, was released in 1966 and sparked the belated but well-earned renaissance of Hitchcock’s appreciation in the 1970s — which is also when the film scool gang of Scorsese and Coppola and George Lucas and Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg started making movies of note and using their newfound fame to draw more appreciation to the Hitchcock movies that’d influenced them.
That view of Hitchcock is now the prevailing one,the idea that he was a kind of edgy brooding genius, and so it’s a neat exercise to look at his work from the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s and see how he was more of a provocateur, int he public’s eye, than the maestro he’s regarded as today.
Cuz Notorious doesn’t just have that long kiss as like the only tooth on its blade. The premise has Cary Grant, an intelligence agent, basically pimping Ingrid Bergman (who plays the daughter of a war criminal) into an undercover relationshp with Claude Raines, who plays a wealthy guy in cahoots with some major former Nazis who appear to be planning something devious. And so on top of the suggested premarital frolicking between German and Grant there’s also this exchange they have on a bench when bergman, coy and grinning, says that she’s adding a notch to her bed post because she just fucked Raines.
And then Raines’s character, like the villains of Psycho and Stranger’s on a Train, has a toxically dependent relationship with his mother and it feels…loaded. Not outright sexual but the weirdness of their bond parallels the illicit romance between him and Bergman — which is offset by her equally-illicit, though also the more consensual and sincere, affair she’s having with Grant.
Nothing here feels like it’s on the level. Everybody’s got an agenda and everybody’s using another person and there’s so much sexual energy — Notorious is definitely the most sexually-charged Hitchcock movie on the List to date. And, on a story level, one of my favorites.