|The two Charlies, Shadow of a Doubt|
|Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie, Shadow of a Doubt|
Hitchcock’s superb film traces her gradual realization that this handsome, sophisticated visitor is not what he seems, and that her romantic, adolescent illusions are about to be shattered by his vision of the world as a “foul sty”, as well as by two attempts on her life. Hitchcock unravels this moral morass through sequences of seamless formal beauty; the famous opening with its parallel introductions to the two Charlies in comparable and contrasting sets of images; the noir atmospherics that invade and threaten the family’s sunlit domestic scenes; the recurring images of smoke surrounding Uncle Charlie which evoke a Lucifer-like presence; young Charlie’s two flights into the night, employing characteristic subjective camera movement, one culminating in her shattering confirmation of her uncle’s identity in the library, the other in the climactic confrontation with uncle Charlie in the Til Two bar.
Hitchcock’s dark undercutting of young Charlie’s innocent dream of small-town life is aided in no small measure by sequences of unsettling black humour (young Charlie’s father Henry Travers and his neighbour Hume Cronyn fancy themselves as amateur sleuths and constantly exchange graphic details of gruesome murders); by Thornton Wilder’s and Joan Harrison’s incisive, ironic and literate screenplay that constantly portrays each member of this “average” middle-American family (including precocious children) as living in isolated cocoons with little communication among themselves; by a pulsating Dimitri Tiomkin score that pinpoints young Charlie’s steadily mounting fears about her uncle Charlie; by Joseph Valentine’s location cinematography that lends sardonic verisimilitude to the atmosphere of cosy middle American life under scrutiny and threat here; and especially by an ensemble of superlatively honed performances (Patricia Collinge, Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten all suggesting, without ever becoming explicit, incestuous undercurrents at the heart of this very American family). Even under the watchful eye of the Hays Code, Hitchcock in his sly subversiveness was always daring the moral guardians to catch him out.
|Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Notorious|
Hitchcock’s voyeuristic style is at its most compelling here, with Grant the watcher reduced to helpless impotence (at several levels) while Bergman is being slowly poisoned in a mansion that threatens to become her tomb. Bergman, encouraged by Hitchcock, projects a wanton erotic abandon in her early, inebriated scenes with such skill that the romantic obsessions of both Grant and Rains become resonant and realistic. There is some sublime subjective tracking down a staircase as Grant rescues Bergman from under the noses of her incarcerators. This is great film making!
|Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Strangers on a Train|
|Strangers on a Train|
|Montgomery Clift, I Confess|
The centrality of voyeurism (in the Catholic ritual of the confessional itself and all that that implies) to the film’s plot is totally Hitchcockian and it is worked out stylistically through some overt subjective camerawork-Karl Malden observing Clift in a street crowd, for example is a stunning visual effect. Dimitri Tiomkin’s typically relentless score is another of the film’s big pluses. The only real weakness of I Confess is Anne Baxter’s heavily theatrical performance-effective enough in the flashbacks in her romantic scenes with Clift, but out of kilter with the introspective tone of the whole.