A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring.
Otto Kellar and his wife Alma work as caretaker and housekeeper at a Catholic church in Quebec. Whilst robbing a house where he sometimes works as a gardener, Otto is caught and kills the owner. Racked with guilt he heads back to the church where Father Michael Logan is working late. Otto confesses his crime, but when the police begin to suspect Father Logan he cannot reveal what he has been told in the confession. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
Brooding, moody, deceptively simple, and beautiful study of guilt and honor
I Confess (1953)
This is one of Hitchcock's darkest films, and one of the best for seamless believability--it lacks some of the breaks from verisimilitude that bigger hits like Psycho and Vertigo famously use. It also has the incomparable Montgomery Clift, who took intensity to new heights as the first in a series of great method actors in the 1950s. He really wasn't a Hitchcock kind of actor (the director liked the artifice and changeability of a Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart much more), but he makes the film what it is, and Hitchcock surely knew it, and made the most of it. When the camera (in the hand of Robert Burks) sweeps up to a full screen view of Clift's face and you see those glowing, brooding eyes, you fall under their collective spell. Yeah, it's great stuff.
The plot is pretty simple and amazing--a priest (Clift) learns something in a confession that come to haunt him in unexpected and very threatening ways. Hitchcock manages to push the envelope a little, as usual, in this case by having an illicit-seeming sexual affair be one of the keys to the plot. This implication naturally complicates the priest's life, but during the main plot of the movie and in a cheery flashback for backstory. Anne Baxter, the principled, strong woman (also not a Hitchcock forte) is terrific throughout, terrific the way Ingrid Bergman was in Notorious. Unlike most of Hitchcock's output, there is essentially no comic relief here, and the light and camera-work are equally dark--and truly gorgeous.
The French New Wave directors really admired this particular film of Hitchcock's, and you can see why. But it is also just a great, fast, distressing American melodrama set in France. It's not sensational, but it is spectacular, one of my favorites among many by this odd, brilliant auteur.
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