Charlotte 'Charlie' Newton is bored with her quiet life at home with her parents and her younger sister. She wishes something exciting would happen and knows exactly what they need: a visit from her sophisticated and much traveled uncle Charlie Oakley, her mother's younger brother. Imagine her delight when, out of the blue, they receive a telegram from uncle Charlie announcing that he is coming to visit them for awhile. Charlie Oakley creates quite a stir and charms the ladies club as well as the bank president where his brother-in-law works. Young Charlie begins to notice some odd behavior on his part, such as cutting out a story in the local paper about a man who marries and then murders rich widows. When two strangers appear asking questions about him, she begins to imagine the worse about her dearly beloved uncle Charlie. Written by
Top-drawer Hitchcock. It's got everything you'd expect from the director - although he's sparing with his usual tropes of tension-building. The story is strong enough without it.
From the start there's something different about this film, something that one only really encounters in Psycho. Following the ballroom titles (David Lynch cannot possibly have begun Mulholland Drive unaware of this tiny, recurring set piece) we meet the first protagonist Charlie (Joseph Cotten). He's in a state closer to that of Camus' disengaged fumeur Meursault than any other conventional leading man. The rest of the film pans out in this ambiguous way. Whomsoever Charlie meets or has to engage with, his manner is wretchedly bipolar - either violent or ebullient. His is the world-wearied end of the family that he goes to visit. This much steadier, morally ring-fenced world has it's own version of Uncle Charlie in the eldest daughter by the same name. Teresa Wright (a dead ringer for Ellen Page) has all his sensitivity but none of his front-line experience of life. The film charts her awakening.
A brilliant, adult and humorous film I found myself laughing out loud and close to tears - the unsullied joy of the family at the opening is disarmingly unaffected. It's also one of the most sexually electric films I've seen in a very long time. 8/10
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