Monday, March 06, 2006

Movie of the Week

Our movie this week is a classic, perhaps one of the best movies ever made. Can you guess which one? I'll give you a hint. It features Nazis, Claude Rains, and Ingrid Bergman and should never, EVER be colorized. Your right! It's Notorious (1946), you weren't fooled into thinking I was going to say Casablanca (1942). Not that Casablanca isn't a strong film (she says in complete understatement), rather that Notorious is tighter and we don't have Paul Henried as an impossibly noble Czechoslavakian breaking Ingrid's heart. Now, now I don't need emails telling me how wrong I am. Victor does break Ilsa's heart and Rick's too; that the broken hearts mend is beside the point.

Notorious also has the delightfully delicious Cary Grant as TR Devlin, Ingrid's love interest. Plot encapsulated: Alicia Huberman (Bergman) daughter of a Nazi agent in the US, is employed by the US Government to ferret out a group of Nazi plotters in Rio. She falls in love with her handler, TR Devlin (Grant), and must choose between patriotism and love when she is asked to marry one of the Nazis, Alexander Sebastian (Rains), in order to get better information.

Of course Alicia isn't the squeaky clean Ilsa Lund, oh no. Alicia is an alcoholic who has slept around a good deal. All the Governmental guys who are using Alicia think poorly of her, even Devlin is skeptical of her sobriety. It is to Alicia's credit that she is as forgiving as she is. I can't imagine a modern movie where the heroine is dumped on by everyone but the baddies and she still does what she ought because she gave her word and believes in the purpose of it all.

Did I mention this is an Alfred Hitchcock movie? Yes, the Master. I can think of maybe one other director who can make objects so sinister, or significant, or keep you in such suspense. M. Night Shyamalan. If anyone could remake a Hitchcock movie it would be Shyamalan. Gus Van Sant? What were they thinking? The Good Will Hunting guy? He's a competent director but I don't think of Van Sant when I think of taut suspense. The remake of Psycho has a great cast: Vince Vaughn (who is a better actor than his pick of roles), Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Robert Forrester, and William H. Macy, so I am inclined to lay it's suckitude at the feet of the director.

So if they did happen to remake Notorious? It should be a update, not a slavish shot by shot remake. The daughter of a naturalized citizen cooperates with FBI in foiling her father's plot to blow up a synagague and exposing a terrorist cell, although her role remains unknown to the world at large. She is enlisted by the US government to infiltrate an organization in Pakistan, which is known to be a front for her father's terrorist group.

She falls in love with her government liason, although the rest of his department regards her with skepticism and distrust. Is he using her? Does he love her? She marries one of the terrorists and learns of a secret operation in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As her husband has gotten more suspicious and jealous he forbids her to leave the house or communicate with the outside world, so her trips to the market, where she has an information drop, cease.

When her bosses are unconcerned about her silence, dismissing it as part of the "culture". her liason becomes increasingly concerned. He rushes to save her. What will happen next? Can you see this being made into a crep fest? Easily. Can you see this made into a crep fest by Shyamalan? Nope. The one thing is I can't see Shamalyan being interested in doing this project because he uses the fantastic to highlight the everyday drama of emotions and relationships, and there is nothing fantastical in Notorious. Can you picture him doing The Birds though?

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