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The Genius And His Stars
littlemartinarocena2 October 2006
Hitchcock introduces his stars with a cinematic blow that makes the opening of this dark, scrumptious thriller a monumental treat. He uses their star personalities and turns them round to dislocate us, teasing us with his unmistakable touch. The absurdity of the plot becomes totally plausible and the suspense is not merely unbearable but thrillingly entertaining. All of Hitchcock's favorite emotional and visual toys are present here. The icy blond, the sexual tension, the weakling villain with a castrating mother. A legendary kiss and a happy ending. Whenever I meet someone who hasn't seen any Hitchcock movies - and there are people in this world, believe it or not, who hasn't - I show them Notorious and always without fail, they are hooked forever. Just the way I was, I am and, I suspect, will always be. Cary Grant is allowed a dark unsmiling romantic hero and Ingrid Bergman lowers her strength to become a woman in love and in jeopardy but unwilling to appear as a victim. This gem of a film can be seen again and again without ever becoming tired or obvious. I'm sure you guessed it by now, this is one of my favorite films of all time.
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In My Top Ten!
windsong35330 December 2006
As a young woman, back in the "olden days" days before video, DVD and TCM, I was always fascinated by this film, though it came and went on more obscure T.V. channels, with no clue of when it would return. Notorious has everything...inimitable Hitchcock moments, mystery, suspense, personal drama, high romance, passion, great character development, international espionage, nuanced acting, a visually stunning foreign locale, post-war period mystique, patriotism, fine supporting cast, a charmingly evil Claude Rains, a most sinister Mme. Konstantin, Grant at his most enigmatic and romantic, and Bergman her most alluring and luminous. As in all great films, it is a spot-on rendering of its own unique story in the ambiance of its own time, but timeless in its portrayal of human character and emotion. Like a handful of others, it is as satisfying a movie experience now as it was 40 years ago...probably more so...whether on first viewing or 40th.
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My favorite Hitchcock!
Danimal-72 September 1999
Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is the daughter of a German-American who has been imprisoned for turning traitor to the U.S. during World War II. Despondent, she becomes an alcoholic and flits from man to man, until one day a mysterious government agent named Devlin (Cary Grant) comes to her and asks for her help. Some old Nazi acquaintances of her father's has taken up residence in Rio de Janeiro; he needs her help to spy on them. Somewhat reluctantly, Alicia agrees.

Once in Rio, it takes some time for the couple to be assigned their mission. The trip takes on the character of a honeymoon, and Alicia and Devlin start falling in love. Then their orders do arrive, and Alicia is assigned to infiltrate the house and the bedroom of the Nazi leader, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains).

This movie delivers a very different kind of suspense from Hitchcock's more famous NORTH BY NORTHWEST. There are no strafing runs by malevolent crop-dusters, no cliff-hanging mountain-climbing scenes, no mad footraces. The suspense here relies all on subtleties that get under your skin and chill you much more than the in-your-face antics of Hitchcock's later piece. The popping of champagne corks signals time running out for two spies in the wine cellar; an impassioned lover seeks to kiss the hand of his lady who has a deadly secret concealed in her palm; a victim of poison sees the shadows of the poisoners merge together on the wall. The final scene is the best of all. Who but Hitchcock could imbue the innocent sentence, "I wish to talk to you," with such chilling power?

This is one of Ingrid Bergman's best performances; Alicia is hardly perfect, but brave and lovely. Hitchcock was far ahead of his time in discarding male chauvinist attitudes that elevated a woman's chastity and "ladylike" attributes over her courage and intelligence. When a superior disparages Alicia for the lack of "character" she has shown by following the orders he himself has given her, Devlin sarcastically lashes out: "She may be risking her life, but when it comes to being a *lady,* she doesn't hold a candle to your wife, sir, sitting in Washington playing bridge with three other ladies of great honor and virtue." Yet Devlin himself is often unsympathetic and harsh in his treatment of Alicia, and the unfairness of that treatment is sharply highlighted in a manner very sympathetic to her.

Not to be overlooked is Rains' magnificent rendition of Alexander Sebastian, a villainous but human and rather weak man who genuinely loves Alicia. I have never seen Rains better except for his immortal portrayal of Cap. Renault in CASABLANCA. Also superb is Leopoldine Konstantin as Sebastian's domineering, scheming mother.

NOTORIOUS is intense and meticulously crafted, and benefits from the best acting in any Hitchcock movie. While NORTH BY NORTHWEST or THE 39 STEPS might be a better introduction to Hitchcock for people used to the slam-bang action of modern cinema, NOTORIOUS is the best I can recommend for those who have already learned to love Hitchcock's work.
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Grant + Bergman + Hitchcock = Chemistry
FilmOtaku25 August 2004
In Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film, `Notorious', Cary Grant plays T.R. Devlin, an American agent who employs the assistance of Alicia Huberman, (Ingrid Bergman) a German expatriate whose father has just been convicted as a German spy. Devlin brings Alicia to Brazil in hopes to arrange a meeting with Alex Sebastian (the fantastic Claude Rains); another German spy who just happens to have a history with Alicia insofar that he was in love with her. The plan is to get them together so that she can spy on Sebastian and his colleagues so that the Americans can get a leg up on their mutual espionage. Of course, love develops between Devlin and Alicia, which complicates their operation and of course, their lives.

`Notorious', despite adhering to the chaste Hayes Code of the time has some of the steamiest scenes between two actors that I can recall during that era. While the scenes never get beyond the standard close-ups of their kisses, the chemistry is a heavy physical presence. The acting in `Notorious' is top-notch; Grant and Bergman were at their best during this era. Claude Rains, who is a personal favorite of mine, is absolutely fabulous in this film. He gives his character, who should be hateful, a humanistic quality that makes him an even more complicated figure. Screenwriter Ben Hecht and Hitchcock team up for some pretty intense moments in `Notorious', and compliment each others styles and talents wonderfully. There are not many nail-biting moments in `Notorious', but the script is excellent. Coupled with the superior acting and direction, `Notorious' is certainly a Hitchcock film that should not be missed.

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Hitchcock's "perfect" movie.
FilmSnobby11 November 2004
*Notorious* may not be Hitchcock's greatest film, but it may very well be his most perfect film. Rarely is a viewer treated to so much talent in all areas of film creation: Hitch directing, Gregg Toland photographing, Ben Hecht writing, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains acting. And everyone is firing on all cylinders.

What gives *Notorious* its singularity amongst the pantheon of Hitchcock's masterpieces is the highly symbolic, literate, and penetrating script by Hecht. Nominally, the film is about the OSS (the pre-natal version of the CIA) using a compromised young daughter of a condemned, unrepentant Nazi to infiltrate a cell of German expatriates in Rio de Janeiro just after the close of the Second World War. The plot hinges on some nonsense involving "uranium ore" stuffed in wine bottles in the cellar of Claude Rains' mansion. In actuality, the film is nothing less than a dark fugue on alcoholism, and secondarily (and of most interest to the director), invasion of privacy. Thirdly, we are treated to some more of the Master's endless fascination with Freudian slop: yet again, we get the Oedipus Complex in all its ardor, with a domineering old bat wielding the motherly whip-hand on Rains' cuckolded, castrated, romantic ex-pat Nazi.

But Hecht is interested primarily in alcoholism, and Hitchcock obligingly complies, utilizing a dizzying myriad of symbols and reference points. In the original script, Bergman's Alicia is something of a whore: the filmmakers were forced by the censors to tone this aspect down, thereby bringing Alicia's dependence on booze to the forefront. Indeed, Bergman spends much of her screen-time woozy-headed, whether from alcohol or poisonous coffee (symbolically functioning as the same thing). Very early in the film, she declares at a party, "The important drinking hasn't started yet!" Exactly. Throughout the movie, Bergman drinks in order to escape her unpleasant circumstances or to wash away bouts of low self-esteem. A bottle of champagne bought by Grant becomes a phallic symbol: he forgets it at the offices of the OSS, with arid results when he arrives home to Bergman. Wine bottles are literally the "key" to the plot. Spilled wine in a sink blows her cover. And late in the proceedings, the simple physical act of drinking -- coffee, yes, but the point comes across -- almost kills her.

There's much more going on here -- too much for a short review, really. Let's finish by asserting that Hitchcock's Forties period was every bit as cinematic as his later, grander, colorized period in the Fifties and Sixties. The slowly swooping shot from the crane, starting from high atop the ceiling of a ballroom and ending up focused on the wine cellar key in Bergman's hand, is merely one famous bravura moment. There are many others:

Grant approaching a hungover Bergman in bed, in which the camera takes her up-ended POV quite literally; Bergman, overcome with poison, hallucinating the figures of Rains and his mother into monstrous shadows that grow larger and larger, eventually merging into one darkness; the two great tracking shots of Grant and Bergman kissing in her Rio apartment and later when Grant rescues her from her poison bed. The trailers for *Notorious* were already calling Hitchcock the "Master of Suspense" . . . it's easy to see why.

As for the performances? Cary Grant proves to be a true soldier, spending much of his screen-time either expressionless or with his back turned to the camera (!), unselfishly giving the film to Bergman, even though his part is actually the more interesting one. Bergman, meanwhile, gives one of the best performances of her illustrious career. No two Bergman roles are quite the same; Hitchcock wisely allows her to do some of her own interpretation, particularly early on during the "character-building" scenes (before the plot moves all the characters into their appointed places on the chessboard). Perhaps best of all, both Grant and Bergman were at the very peak of the physical charms: the movie is some serious eye-candy for both genders. 9 stars out of 10.
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Bergman and Grants chemistry goes unsurpassed
vic-4514 March 1999
Bergman and Grant are the true romantics of cinema. They move throughout the film as if they were acting naturally toward one another. Hitchcock puts them both in closeups especially the illuminating Bergman, capturing the power of the medium.

When Bergman says "Oh, you love me-you love me" in that wonderful close up I have to think to myself, how much I look forward to becoming a film maker. Why can't Hollywood capture moments like these in today's features?

Note how long the kiss lasts as Bergman and Grant move from the balcony to the living room. The lighting and camera positioning are phenomenal. Do not expect the typical Hitchcock here but then again it is hard to say what a typical Hitchcock is. Each of his films contain so many different elements yet, at the same time possess the true signature of an auteur.
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One of Hitchcock's best!
ljcjpjlj28 October 2004
Notorious is absolutely one of Hitchcock's best films. The suspense sneaks up on you, and I found myself on the edge of my seat. Cary Grant is in love with Ingrid Bergman, (but who wouldn't be) caught in a triangle of love, deceit and lies. They both shine as the super stars they are in this meticulously filmed masterpiece. Hitchcock's hand is all over this film. And as is usual for the master, he never misses a beat, never puts in a sloppy scene, and sees it all in his mind's eye (and on paper) before committing it to film. This is why he is The Master of his craft. Bergman is at her lovely best, that sometimes smiling, sometimes pouty mouth, that cute nose, and those stupendously beautiful eyes. This film, which I've just seen for the first time (why, oh why, did I wait so long?) is up there, near the top, I have to see it again and again.
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No, No, Notorious
BumpyRide2 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Where do some of these "reviewers" come from? Calling Notorious and Alfred Hitchcock boring and outdated is the height of arrogance. Where are the obvious fake sets, that the oh great one, "TedG" is referring to? The mansion? Alicia's Rio apartment? I guess I'm just not in the same league as they are because I can watch a movie and be entertained by it. Personally, Notorious (in my uneducated opinion) is perhaps Hitchcock's most tightly knitted story-ever. There is no unnecessary scene, no irrelevant dialog, no padding or fluff. Outstanding acting abounds, intricate camera movements, (the reflection in Alicia's binoculars at the race track, the long camera shot starting at the top of the stairs slowly narrowing in and coming to rest on the key Alicia has secured in her hand, the fragmented images as Alicia realizes she is being poisoned)angles and shadows carry you along effortlessly.

Bergman, Grant, and Rains, along with a superb supporting cast bring to the screen the ultimate stylish spy vs. spy yarn. Suspense is slowly built up, and then released throughout; Devlin and Alicia snooping in the wine cellar as the sommelier realizes they need more wine for the party, Devlin finding Alicia confined to her room, and trying to rouse her so he can get her away from the evil in the house are but two examples of the suspense that build to the climax of the film.

In a day when we get the likes of Catwoman, American Pie II and Meet The Parents, I'll take the boring and outdated Notorious any day of the week. I'm crazy that way.
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Cheeseballs and champagne? Good grief! . . .
Holdjerhorses12 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Notorious" is, of Hitchcock's "earlier" films, certainly the most durable and endlessly fascinating. Not, God knows, for its "brilliant" shots -- including the famous tracking shot from the foyer ceiling down to the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand.

But for the frank eroticism Hitchcock establishes from the opening party sequence on, and Bergman's breathtakingly uninhibited playing against her "virginal" type.

"Notorious" is riddled with bad, jerky rear-projection sequences. The first is Bergman's drunken drive along the Florida highway before the policeman stops her.

Then, every sequence where she and Cary Grant meet in the park in Rio. Sitting on that bench while the entire world "jerks" behind them.


Do we care? Hell, no.

Ingrid Bergman was never so starkly sensual and frank on screen, as she is as "Alicia." And Cary Grant, as agent Devlin, was perfectly directed to play cold and largely unresponsive to Bergman's unrestrained and ultimately heartbreaking heat.

Grant is given subtle moments early on, to show his falling in love with Bergman. The brief glance he gives her as she leans across his lap in the plane descending into Rio, before Hitchcock quickly fades it out, is almost pornographic (for the era).

Their repartee is so fraught with sexual tension and mutual challenge as to be unparalleled in cinema up till that time -- and perhaps even since.

Bergman, so powerful an actress, is utterly vulnerable and natural in the early sequences -- emerging from her father's trial with her usual Bergmanesque stoicism, only to instantly become surprisingly, drunkenly, girlish and accessible and dangerous in the next sequence -- brushing windblown hair from her lips as she drives -- viciously fighting off Devlin when she realizes Devlin's an agent -- awakening to a hangover so realistic you can almost smell her breath steaming off the screen -- finally agreeing, out of patriotism, to help the "cause." The range of Bergman's performance, from drunken party girl desperate to escape her background, to duplicitous double-agent portraying "Madame" Sebastian in elegant surroundings, to helplessly, hopelessly lovesick Alicia finally in love with an unresponsive American agent (Grant) -- to an imprisoned woman dying of poisoning -- Bergman is simply brilliant.

She was never more sensually presented on screen.

Nor was Cary Grant. One does not expect emotional displays or outbursts from a government agent.

Grant's / Devlin's professional reluctance to admit, much less act on, his feelings for Bergman's Alicia is evident from frame one. His self-control as an actor and as a man was never better realized. At any moment, he could sexually assault Alicia -- whether out of rage or love is never clear, until the final, tender, moments of the film.

By the time Alicia and Devlin reach the infamous two-plus minutes on-off kissing scene in Alicia's Rio apartment, viewers of both sexes are watering at the mouth, wanting them to devour each other.

That they don't adds another layer of suspense to what ultimately becomes almost unbearable tension after Alicia weds Sebastian and moves in with him, his mother, and the other Nazis.

This is an amazingly daring film in terms of female sexuality, for its day or ours. Hitchcock asks us, as he asks Devlin, to sympathize with -- and love -- a woman who not only sleeps around just as men do, but who is willing to sleep around under false pretenses for the good of her adopted country. If that's a stretch for audiences now, consider what it was for audiences in the late 40s.

Is there another "heroine" in cinema history who blatantly sleeps with a man she despises in order to win the love (and successfully) of another man whom she adores?

Name one.

Not "Mata Hari," who, no matter that she was played by Garbo, had anywhere near the emotional/political/moral complexity of Alicia.

We still have to contend with those cheeseball rear-projection sequences. But Bergman and Grant play them so beautifully that the shoddy rear-screen technological primitivism is immediately forgiven.

And the secondary casting is so flawless that, in "Notorious'" final sequence, as Claude Rains is called back into the mansion and walks up those steps to his inevitable death, and the door closes while Bergman and Grant escape to a new life, our feelings are a mixture of triumph and pity.

Truly, one of Hitchcock's most complex, sexually challenging, political, adult, ambiguous and disturbing films.

Forget the cheeseball rear-projections, please.

"Notorious" is several glasses -- perhaps too many -- of vintage cinematic champagne.

Good grief!
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One of Hitchcock's most thrilling examinations of psychosexual ambiguity
allyjack25 October 1999
One of Hitchcock's most thrilling examinations of psychosexual ambiguity, with the Grant-Bergman relationship veering from an initial meet-cute to genuine (beautifully conveyed) mutual delight to sadistic manipulation - he makes a whore of her and forces the fact again and again into her face, seldom giving an inch until the very end, where his change of heart has a largely tacked on feeling. We first see him from behind, quietly, predatorily watching at one of her drunken parties; they go for a drive and we see his hand poised to grab the wheel even as he pretends to submit himself to her drunken control over the car - it sets the tone, for Grant never relents on his desire to possess her, and reacts all too like a spurned lover to events, belittling her love even as she continually reasserts it; the callousness with which he distances himself from her after learning of her assignment is breathtaking. The main plot can hardly match the complexity of the central relationship, even though it's an excellently constructed yarn, with the fine set pieces of the party and the ultimate escape, which is essentially a battle between Rains and Grant for possession of the weakened Bergman - a finale which emphasizes how she's always been a prisoner, of her father's myth, of the male system, of her own emotions.
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A second viewing of this great film
zetes13 May 2003
A nostalgic revisit for me. Unlike many of our other young posters in our community, I didn't grow up with a strong background in the classics. Notorious was the first Hollywood classic from the studio era that I went out and rented. I had seen several others, but they were either Disney movies, The Wizard of Oz, or forced upon me in my first film class (e.g., Stagecoach, which I despised for years!). Notorious wasn't even my first Hitchcock movie; that was The 39 Steps, which I also didn't care for. But Notorious was suggested to me by a good friend, so I went to the video store, went to the classics section for the first time, and picked it up. It isn't responsible for the path I took afterwards (I would probably give that credit to Citizen Kane), but I remember liking it. This was the summer after my Freshman year in college, in 1998.

It's amazing how much I've learned in the five years since I saw it first. I liked it quite a bit, but it certainly wasn't one of my favorites. This was the summer I discovered the American cinema after the studios collapsed, movies such as The Godfather and 2001, so Notorious seemed a little dated to my uneducated eyes. I remembered a couple of the more showy scenes, like the one where Ingrid Bergman realizes why she's sick. I especially remembered the entire final scene. But I was unprepared for the subtlety.

On this second viewing, I was shocked at just how intimate Hitchcock's direction is in Notorious – it's easily one of his very best works as a director. He utilizes close-ups to an almost uncomfortable degree. At first, I thought that Grant's and Bergman's love affair felt kind of forced, but that scene where they make out for two minutes straight pretty much sold it for me! Notorious was first suggested to me as an example of screen eroticism, and I would have been far too unrefined to feel that power five years ago.

I do still have a couple of problems with the film, but they're minor. Well, they're worth mentioning, anyway. I don't really like Cary Grant in the film. He's good, but he's not at the level of the rest of the film. I really think he's best suited for comedy; he has such a gift for comic timing. He has problems shifting between the passion he has for Bergman and the anger he has for what she's doing. I'd love to see what other actors could have done with that (Montgomery Clift comes to mind, for some reason, although he was still a couple of years away). I also feel that Devlin's anger with Alicia (talking strictly about the characters now, not the the actors) is maybe a little exaggerated. I realize that this is 1946, but I might imagine that spies and secret agents would not be so offended at this sort of thing. This is, of course, the main conflict of the film, so I guess I just have to accept it as the premise.

As for the other actors, they are uniformly brilliant. Ingrid Bergman gives one of her best performances. Claude Rains is brilliant as the villain. He's one of those Hitchcock antagonists whom I shouldn't care for, but, for some reason, I really feel sorry for him. He's so pathetic. The sequence where he discovers who his new wife is is quite heartbreaking, really (although I think that the musical score, which is generally excellent, goes overboard on the sting when he discovers the broken wine bottle). Perhaps another thing I hold against Grant and Devlin is that final, cruel moment when he locks the car door on Rains. I know he's a Nazi, but it's hard not to feel sorry for him at that point. I also love, just love, Leopoldine Konstantin's performance as Rains' mother. She is simply frightening. Reinhold Schünzel is also rather intimidating as the scarred Dr. Anderson. I love the suspicious look he gives Rains as Grant leads Bergman down the stairs.
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Romance -- Hitchcock style
heather_m19863 January 2010
Dark, cruel, beautifully photographed, and deeply erotic, Notorious in one of Hitchcock's very best. It's remarkably sexual and sophisticated story from a time in Hollywood where the power of the Breen Office was at its apex. Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is the daughter of a convicted Nazi. American agent Devlin (Cary Grant) contacts her and convinces her to spy against some of her father's Nazi colleagues in Brazil. The chief of these of Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), one of the most genial Nazis depicted on the silver screen, who has a crush on Alicia. Of course, Alicia has fallen madly in love with Devlin, and he with her, though he could never admit it, and instead pushes her to seduce Sebastian to obtain his secrets. He wants her for the mission when she accept, he brands her a whore. Only a whore would sleep with a man for his secrets, right? Hitchcock gathers some of Hollywood's best and casts them against type. Ingrid Bergman, who hitherto had played a fair number of virginal ingénues, plays Alicia Huberman, a powerfully sensual woman but also a drunken nymphomaniac. You get the sense that she can merely stroke Devlin's cold, frozen face and bring him magically to life. The great comic-acrobat-sophisticate Cary Grant is cast as the emotionally stunted and almost sadistic T.R. Devlin, a mysterious secret agent who recruits Alicia to work for the government. Cary Grant utilizes his inherent reticence to create a character who is isolated and closed off, who can lash out and act disinterested so easily toward the woman he loves. Claude Rains, with his rich English voice and amiable face plays Nazi Alex Sebastian, a rather nice fellow who happens be plotting against the United States. He is genuinely in love with Alicia and when he learns of her betrayal, his despair and terror is palpable and moving. Madame Constantin, imported especially by Hitchcock from Germany for this film is the brilliant and icy cold Madame Sebastian, Alex's powerful mother. In one particular scene she smokes a cigarette with a malice unequaled by any actress in Hollywood history. It's like she has it clasped in her talons. Louis Calhern is Devlin's boss, breezy, narrow minded, and casually misogynistic.

Notorious is a very stylish production. Ingrid Bergman, who usually wore little makeup in her films, has a very natural sensuality and wears lovely 40s hats and suits very elegantly. Cary Grant is hitting his stride as the fashion icon he later became in the 50s. The suits are slimmer than they were in earlier roles and help emphasize Grant's lean and powerful, but graceful, physicality. Hitchcock's camera is characteristically authoritative, shaping the audience's impressions. It is very open to Bergman and very closed to Grant. Bergman is often shot in close ups and medium shots, and in flattering soft focus, and in accessible to the audience. Her heartrending luminosity, used so brilliantly in Casablanca is used again here by Hitchcock. Grant, on the other hand, is several times shot with his back to the camera, looking away from from the camera or with his face obscured by shadows. You suspect, but you never really KNOW what Devlin is feeling for the majority of the film. Grant is inscrutable and here is really demonstrating his economy --and brilliance-- as a performer. Sometimes he does seem a bit too stiff, especially since we know that he's capable of doing Dr. David Huxley and Editor-in-chief Walter Burns, but most actors wouldn't have dared to give such an understated performance as Grant does here.

The world of Notorious is very insular. Most of the film, with the exception of the love scenes, is indoors. Any other scenes that find the characters outdoors find the characters closed off. Barricaded between objects or people. All this gives the film a claustrophobic feel, like Devlin and Alicia have no place to hide and no place to breathe. People said that Hitchcock disliked actors. I don't think that's true, but Hitchcock seems to have extraordinary control over the technical aspects of filming. In order scenes to work actors must explicitly follow direction; they are the tools of film-making. All this attention to detail is absolutely necessary considering the complex composition of many of his scenes. The reputed "Longest kiss in film history" where Devlin and Alicia embrace and talk and kiss for several is a very intricate piece of blocking as the characters move from one room to another, Devlin speaks on the phone, reach, turn etc... If Hitchcock worked like someone like Howard Hawks, for instance, this sort of scene wouldn't be possible.

Since this is a Hitchcock film, people may be mislead into thinking that it's a thriller. It's not. It's really a perverse romance. The characters are more intricately drawn than they are in thrillers. Indeed, plot and character development seem to be equally important. The story does not move quickly but you don't really notice, you're too busy being immersed in Hitchcock's world. Thrilling, sexy, and moving, Notorious is highly recommended
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Bergman/Hitchcock collaboration ensures lasting success of Notorious
MoviGeni28 September 1999
Notorious is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. Like so many of his later features it is saddled with a highly suspect plot that is driven by a set of poor decisions made by a handful of characters of such alarmingly low emotional intelligence it is a miracle they survive the first half of the film at all, yet it works. It keeps company with the likes of Strangers On A Train, Psycho, Rear Window, The Thirty-Nine Steps, North by North-West, The Lady Vanishes: it is a classic. It is tempting to put it all down to Ingrid Bergman's portrayal of Alicia Hubberman - which is faultless - but Bergman alone could not have made Notorious what it is: she also starred in Spellbound and Under Capricorn and was unable to save either of those films from limping into mediocrity. It is also appealing to suggest the obvious: that it is the combination of breathtaking cinematography, flawless supporting cast and Ben Hecht's cracking script that make it so good. But I believe that the primary reason Notorious excels is because of the abiding friendship, professional respect and unrequited love that existed between Alfred Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman as they stepped up to make the film. The archetypal > themes that comprised their professional partnership inspired, amongst other things, Hitchcock's/Hecht's Alicia - a woman in a barren marriage desperate for love - and all those tender beautifully lit close-ups. It also allowed Bergman - and here a precedent was broken - to contribute, and to act upon, her insights as to the motivations and behavior of her character.

Hitchcock didn't suffer the opinions of his actors lightly, yet

where Notorious was concerned, he made an exception. For the duration of the shooting of the film, Bergman was Hitchcock's closest collaborator. I have a strong sense that the very thing that could have made Notorious lame - Hitchcock's unrequited love for Bergman - is also the very thing that saved it from obscurity and that we may have much - we will never how much - for which to thank Bergman.

There are many moments that make Notorious Bergman's picture, but I think the most extraordinary is the kiss outside the wine cellar. In all her films, Bergman always brought a vulnerability to her love scenes that imbued them with a real sense of intimacy, and Notorious is no exception: think of her in the infamous balcony scene or during her final descent down the staircase. Yet when Dev - ever the mercenary genius of improvisation - makes full use of Rains' approach and, pulling Alicia to him as they stand outside the wine cellar, orders her to kiss him, Bergman actually surpasses her own track record.

Suddenly in the arms of the man she really loves she is overcome with emotion; and for one second, maybe two, she separates her mouth from his, and in an attempt to give voice to the indescribable and to forge, experience and register a moment of pure intimacy, she utters one word, his name, 'Dev!' and all hell breaks loose. Never in the history of cinema has one word carried such an erotic charge. They could not be closer. He doesn't flinch. They barely move, but it is all there. And it's not just her voice, it is also her eyebrows. Just as she utters his name, Bergman furrows them. They tremble. They, along with her tremulous whisper, betray her true feelings, so that within the space of two seconds we witness Bergman experience both the heightened rush of intense sexual desire as well as the instantaneous relief afforded her by the act of surrender to it.

All this with one word - 'Dev' - and the furrowing of a pair of eyebrows. So much emotion conveyed with so little and in such a brief period of time.

It is because of moments like these that Notorious is timeless - the film gets under your skin and into your psyche - and given the history of the film and her beautiful performance at the center of it, it is fitting that it should be Bergman
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elizabethjean7928 October 2004
I'm a big fan of Hitchcock movies, and was expecting Notorious to be in the same genre as North by Northwest and Charade---and I was initially disappointed. However, I watched it again and fell in love with this movie!

The plot, if you take the time to think about it, is amazing. Also, it's pretty risqué--everything about it. Bergman is absolutely superb--as is Cary Grant. Ingrid Bergman should have won an Oscar for her performance. Every line is classic and I've ended up seeing the movie three or five times. However, if you're up for a thrilling movie at home w/friends or at a party, this wouldn't be the one. I wouldn't say this is the type of movie for a romantic date's in its own category where you just have to watch it with true classic film fans.
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"I'm the girl nobody remembers"
Steffi_P23 February 2009
Alfred Hitchcock's reputation as the Master of Suspense was built largely upon his ability to create suspense out of thin air. Now that he was completely settled into a stylistic method for making effective thrillers, it was time for a bit of showing off, building tension from the simplest of situations. Notorious is one of his purest pictures in that regard – a plot you could condense onto the back of a postcard, but a tour-de-force of suspenseful technique.

The screenplay is by Ben Hecht, a writer who fully understood Hitch's aims – the two are very much in synch with the structure, pacing and presenting of the material. The first twenty minutes are incredibly fast paced, full of jump cuts and thirty-second scenes. We waste no time in establishing the romantic link between Grant and Bergman. The political background is briefly stated, but not dwelled upon, and to this end Hitchcock shoots the court scene in a distant point-of-view shot from outside the room, before sweeping the camera into the Bergman's attention-grabbing entrance. This is not a film about motives – it's a film about consequences.

After this, once Bergman is assigned to her spying mission and the "game" as it were begins, there is a shift in pace. From now on Hecht and Hitchcock's aim is to place us inside the experiences of our two leads – with a slightly different angle for each. With Grant, the focus is upon his pain and bitterness at having to give up Bergman to Claude Rains. So, when Bergman and Rains first meet in the horse-riding scene, we do not see what dialogue passes between them – instead we are shown Grant's point of view, and his distressed reaction.

With Bergman however the focus is upon her fear and vulnerability as she carries out her work. As opposed to the snappiness of the opening, many of Bergman's scenes unfold in excruciating real-time. Hitchcock's camera technique emphasises the sense of danger, making the nazi stooges appear more menacing by having them fill the frame. Another very effective trick used in the party sequence is to cut between close-ups of Bergman to point-of-view shots that show off the vastness of the rooms, which make us feel her disconcertedness.

The slow and deliberate pace of the main part of Notorious also allows for the effective staging of several suspense set-pieces. The simplest of scenes, the simplest of acts are drawn out to breaking point, cut up into numerous shots and carefully timed to turn them into heart-thumpers. The ultimate example of this is of course the final scene. You can also see when looking at scenes like the business with the key or the wine bottle why Hitchcock disliked last-minute twists – the suspense wouldn't work if the audience weren't aware of the actions and knowledge of all the characters.

We have here one of the most stellar casts Hitchcock had ever bagged, with both Grant and Bergman at the height of their popularity. Both are in quite demanding parts, as characters who have to stifle their emotions and play a role within the role. Unfortunately Hitchcock was no master when it came to motivating his cast, and while the leads are good they are not outstanding. Claude Rains too has a complex part, as a man who has to come to terms with his own gargantuan mistake, and it was his steady, deep performance that got the Oscar nomination.

In the end though, it is Hitchcock's utter devotion to suspense over substance that is the Achilles heel of Notorious. The purely functional screenplay is lacking in humour and sparkling dialogue, the romance lacks chemistry and the characters lack motivation. It is undoubtedly one of his most carefully crafted thrillers, but it is ultimately a slightly hollow experience.
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Very, very flimsy
onepotato214 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this about 4 times and I return to it occasionally hoping to see the merit people find in it. I never do.

You can see that this movie would have been useful in establishing Hitchcock, but that moment is quite over. He surpassed it (technically and artistically) quickly after with his own work. It's value is only in context. It's not good Hitchcock by my standard. It has one daring idea for the time; that a tramp may show greater nobility and heroism than the off-screen prim and proper 1950's housewife that is mentioned; and one interesting performance; a German mother more threatening than the harmless, effete villain.

Unfortunately Hitch is more interested in the technical aspects of Notorious, and then only in places, making it a weird, lopsided production. It's chilly, and many scenes are crappy genre clichés. It's technically "on" but emotionally off. I never feel a thing watching this. It's an academic exercise.

If the apparent level of a movie is so disappointing, why would a viewer be interested in learning more about its symbolic or semiotic level? Which, by the way none of these reviews even touch.

TECHNIQUE: All the major scenes are showy but hollow.

The classic camera shot zooming in from an overhead full-room shot to Alicia's hand holding a key embodies the problems here. It's pointless. The plot has set up the moment. We've SEEN her steal the key, and we know she's handing it off to Devlin at the party. The shot is vapid because it adds nothing but conspicuous technique to the moment. The shot is pivotal but it changes nothing. After it we know exactly what we knew before; that's not mature Hitchcock. What does it mean when he makes such a laborious, self-conscious shot, but the rest of the movie is so hideously fake? The rear-screen projections are fatal here: whether it's a park bench, a courthouse, a café, or all of Rio, the movie is about one yard deep. I can't believe people love a movie with such phony methods of getting imagery into a camera.

Worst of all is the convention of the actors betraying necessarily clandestine reactions on their faces for the benefit of the audience; looks that would give them away over and over again. The acting here is all about making faces. Forget body language or something subtler.

Cary Grant plays a petulant, vindictive ass. It's a miracle we won the war with unprofessional jackasses like this working for us. After one drunk date he's a snotty lover? I have now seen all the Grant/Hitchcock movies (after seeing Suspicion yesterday) and I dislike each one for different reasons.

HOLES: Over and over again Hitchcock chooses the dumb & cinematic over internal logic or common sense. It's as if he assumes the audience left their brains at home.

Why such tension developed over handing off the key to Devlin upstairs at the party, when Alicia arranges to be at the wine cellar door WITH HIM when he opens it? This is the films major setpiece and it makes absolutely no sense.

Why is neither Devlin or Alicia concerned with devising a way to get the key back on Sebastians ring? Because Hitch needs that tension-building wine cellar sequence more than he cares to fit it convincingly into a romance or a spy plot. Why can't Devlin piece her fate together, after say ten seconds of thought, where he realizes neither he nor she gave a damn about being detected after the fact? Because he's the worst agent ever scripted in a Hollywood movie. This isn't rocket science.

Devlin and Alicia meet 4 or 5 times in public to hand information off. They meet at a racetrack, or on a park bench talking out the sides of their mouths, so as to avoid discovery. But what would anyone need to 'discover' about their conversation if they were seen together? Just being seen together would betray them. Sebastian knows Devlin is an agent from the start and has figured out that the two are in love. What's the point of sitting an extra foot apart on a bench pretending to have idle chatter? Two people in their situation would never choose to meet in public.

When I read fawning reviews of this movie, it makes me sorry Hitchcock used such constant motifs across his career; because shallow fans can watch engaging nothing but a checklist of elements: *the directors appearance, *a technical trick, *a stairway, *a camera gimmick, *a domineering mother, *a character falling to their death, *an icy blonde, etc. They can't wait to declare it a masterpiece and congratulate themselves. But they couldn't tell you why this is important or discuss it's ideas for ten seconds because they lack any criteria that would tell them when those elements construct a shallow movie. In Hitchcock's great movies that checklist is supported by convincing psychology, a bit of humor and satisfying depth that yields layers of meaning. Not so here.
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Attractive Leads, Unattractive Story
ccthemovieman-123 April 2007
Here is a good example of how Alfred Hitchcock's films are generally way overrated. I say "generally," because of two of his - Psycho and Rear Window - are considered two of his best and are two of my all-time favorites. However, in the 1940s I thought he made a bunch of films that would put an insomniac asleep. This is Exhibit A for that.

Cast-wise, it's difficult to imagine not liking a film with Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Louis Calhern....but this story is just agonizing in its slowness and incredibly stupid in its romance angle. It's hard to picture a better-looking couple than Grant and Bergman in the mid '40s but they can't overcome this tedious script and they don't quite cut it as believable spies. The "suspense" is nonexistent, too, and the plot is preposterous.

Just because it's "Hitch" directing, it doesn't mean it's automatically good, especially in the 1940s.
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Not hitchcoks's best
bhargavakumark10 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was quite disappointed with the movie. With the hitchcock name and *spy* attached to it, i was wxpecting something better than this.

Devlin didn't really look comfortable in his character. There were hardly any difference in his expressions, most of the time he just looked to hate his character.

Sebastein was shown too weak in the movie. For someone who is rich and been in the field for long enough don't get so easily fooled and frightened.

And the key part really looked funny. What do they expect by stealing the key from the man. If i had been keeping keys in my pocket for long, the moment i touch my keys i would feel the difference between having 3 or 4 keys. What do they expect sebastein would do, when he finds that the key is missing(when he tries to open the cellar door) and suddenly the next morning the key is in the keychain again. Even a school kid would figure out what is going on. And the scene where Emil points out at the wine bottle.... what can we say
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The greatest Hitchcock film
jgreenb220 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Notorious is on my short list of movies that I can watch anytime, anyplace, no matter how recently I have seen it. It never grows old. Many people have described the plot and cinematography but I'd like to give a more personal view of the film. Why do I find it so endlessly enjoyable? Here are a few good reasons:

1) Ingrid Bergman has never looked more beautiful. Perhaps no actress has ever looked as beautiful, alluring, vulnerable and sad as Bergman in this film. From her bare midriff in the opening scenes to her marvelous riding outfit when she meets Sebastian I cannot take my eyes off her.

2)Notorious has one of the most adult scripts in the history of the movies. I'm not talking about plot -- but just *listen* to the dialog! Devlin and Alicia don't just spar or joust -- they verbally rip at each other with a venom that only wild passion can explain. If you listen to all the dialog it can be quite uncomfortable -- there is no lighthearted banter between them. It's open sexual warfare -- "right below the belt every time" as Alicia so accurately observes. The dialog is about sex in language so bald that I can hardly believe it survived the censors. And not a dainty, pretty sex, but raw, intense, wounding, needful, adult sexuality that almost never gets explored in mainstream movies. That Hitchcock did it in 1946 is nothing short of astonishing. Ben Hecht gave Notorious one of the great screenplays in the movies -- perhaps only Chinatown can compare to it.

3) Cary Grant & Claude Rains. I love their competition for Alicia and the way that Hitchcock and Hecht have inverted their roles. As Devlin, Grant is cruel, cold and repressed in his dealings with Alicia. He is her lover but he can hardly reconcile his love for Alicia with his fear of losing her or with his own self-loathing. Sebastian, as played by Rains is a perfect gentleman. We never doubt that Sebastian, the Nazi, deeply and truly loves Alicia. He is tender and caring with her in ways that we can't really imagine Devlin ever being. Their love triangle is endlessly fascinating to watch.

4)Perfect form. Hitchcock was a master stylist and he was at the top of his game in Notorious. The movie is like a elegant, formal dance. To complain about realism in a movie like this is totally beside the point. It's all artifice and all art. No scenes wasted, no scenes that are designed to shock. Everything locks together in perfect symmetry.

I have sat through Notorious with many people who simply don't get it. I feel sorry for them. This is one of great experiences that the movies can offer.
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Intriguing and enthralling Hitchcock espionage-thriller
grantss21 March 2017
It is 1946 and while World War 2 might be over, Nazis still loyal to the Third Reich can be found. Alicia Huberman's (played by Ingrid Bergman) father was such a man, and he has just been convicted of treason in the US. Ms Huberman did not share her father's views, but has gained notoriety as the daughter of a convicted traitor. US Intelligence, in the form of Mr Devlin (Cary Grant), see this notoriety as an opportunity, recruiting her to infiltrate a group of Nazis living in Rio de Janeiro. The group is lead by Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), an ex-flame of Alicia's. Alicia manages to infiltrate the group, but her previous relationship with Sebastian complicates things, as does her developing relationship with Devlin...

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this has many of his cinematic traits. The innocuous start, the slow-burning intrigue, the ramping up of the suspense and the thrilling conclusion, all executed with the deft Hitchcock touch. Great twist at one point, just when the plot was looking predictable.

Not perfect though. The start and the initial scenes involving Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman feel a bit clumsy. The whole romantic side feels overly sappy and forced and seems to have too much weight in the script. This is made up for by an espionage plot that gets better as it goes on.

Not in the same league as Hitchcock's best - Rebecca, Rear Window and Psycho - but still very good nevertheless.
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The Perfect Film - Notorious
ash2k20 May 2007
Notice what I said in my summary, THE perfect film. Not A perfect film, THE perfect film. How can you get any better than The Master, Alfred Hitchcock, and arguably two of the greatest actors of all time, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman? The result is a chemistry that cannot be resisted by anyone, even the most hardest of critics.

Bergman, and her gripping performance as a sad, confused, and war-torn soul looking for love is simply stunning. I have to admit, as great of a star as Ms. Bergman is, before Notorious, I had never seen her in a film before. I was blown away by Notorious. If Ms. Bergman's performance in this film does not suck you into this film, maybe Cary Grant's will. What can I say? Mr. Grant is, in my opinion, one of the greatest actors of film's history. His work in Hitchcock's Notorious is no exception. As great as Ms. Bergman and Mr. Grant are, we cannot forget, shall we say, the real star of this perfect film? Alfred Hitchock. Mr. Hitchcock and his camera are superb. The way he uses the lens to capture images that tell the story is an inspiration to every director as the way to use the visual medium of film. But his amazing direction does not stop with the camera. You can see his masterful work in every aspect of the film, through his actors, through the story, through the writing and dialog, and through his trademark suspense.

What more can I say? If the combination of Bergman, Grant, and Hitchcock doesn't stir you enough to want to go and rent this movie as fast as you possibly can, then I don't know what to say! See it and be transfixed, thrilled, and amazed by the perfect film.
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Masterpiece from Master of Suspense
Hitchcoc16 February 2007
There is so much tension in this film. Not just the culminating scene. There is the basic distrust that weaves its way through the psyches of the characters. We know from the beginning that the consequences of the characters' actions are of global importance. Something must be done, but critical actions in the past (the "notorious" element) put everything up a notch. We have the developing relationship between Bergman (whom I think has no peer for softness and sensuality on screen) and Grant. We have the wonderful Claude Rains, who in many respects is a nice fellow, except for his traitorous, dangerous persona. We Americans don't always tolerate spies and snitches, even though we would all be dead without them. I agree that some of the visual nature of the film is tacky. Hithccock sometimes went with the story line and didn't go for total visual verisimilitude. I've never like scenes in the front seat of a car. What is happening behind the characters always seems strained. But like we do in the theatre, we suspend our disbelief for a moment and ignore such things. See this for what it is. A great grouping of stars who lit up the screen, creating a tense, tight, watchable film.
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Hitchcock delivers romance, thrills and Nazis!
Tweekums24 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After Alicia Huberman's father is jailed for being a Nazi agent shortly after the war she is approached by government agent T. R. Devlin who wants her to help uncover a Nazi cell in Rio de Janeiro. She isn't keen at first but he manages to persuade her; not only that by the time they get to Rio it is clear that they both have feelings for each other. Once there Devlin learns more details of the operation; the cell is led by Alex Sebastian, a friend of Alicia's father who clearly fancied her in the past. She is to meet him again, seduce him if necessary and find the identities of his associates and details of what they are doing. She agrees but is clearly a bit disappointed and assumes he must have just pretended to be in love to recruit her; he in turn is upset that she didn't refuse and assumes she doesn't truly love him. The operation goes ahead and Alicia does indeed get close to her target; so close that he proposes. She still isn't totally trusted though; Alex's mother never trusted her and keeps a keen eye on her. As she learns more the danger only increases; will Devlin be able to save her or will he even want to?

This classic from director Alfred Hitchcock is a fine mix of romance and thrills. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman have a great chemistry as Devlin and Alicia; it is easy to believe their characters really are in love. Claude Rains also impresses as Alex Sebastian; rather than the stereotypical 'evil Nazi' he is a largely sympathetic character which makes him more plausible. Both the romance and the thriller elements work very well; things get particularly tense as the film approached its finale. There is no real violence on screen but the threat is definitely real; there is a sense of helplessness when Alicia is exposed. Overall this is definitely worth watching if you enjoy classic cinema.
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Excellent Noir
k-howell-7791422 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A beautiful drama, albeit a couple of holes. I had been expecting Alicia's father to play a larger role in the film, given how much he had been discussed in the beginning. I had also expected a bigger deal to have been made over the role of the uranium ore. I was hoping to hear more about what the Nazis wanted with it, yet the film ended without explanation. I did like the ending however. The to Notorious is rather unconventional, leaving the fate of the leading lady Alicia rather wide open, and instead sealing the fate of Alex Sebastian in the last moment of the film. Alex Sebastian had what was coming to him, yet the end of the film made you feel for a bit, as the camera followed him up the stairs to certain death. It was suspenseful and excellently filmed, not his best, but close to it.
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chaswe-2840227 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Rains, Grant and Bergman are victims in this story, especially Rains. You have to feel sorry for Rains. I know he is a Nazi, but he seems an unusually well-mannered, agreeable, charming British-type Nazi, and he is very badly treated, not only by Bergman, but also by his evil, dominating Hitchcock-type, mother. She is also a victim, of course, since her son ends by getting done in by the other Nazis. Perhaps she is also doomed. The only one who is not a victim is Calhern. You can tell that by the way he comfortably stretches out his legs, munching his goodies, as he gives his cynical instructions to tortured Cary Grant. He makes casual use of the lot of them.

Reading the negative reviews for this subtle exercise in manipulative psychology is positively hilarious. No guns ? No shoot-outs ? No devilish gadgets ? Just talk ? These complaints indicate just how far we've entered into the mindless robotic age. Thought is abolished, in favour of mechanism. The triumph of the machines is not far off. Sigmund Freud has had it. I was only going to give this film 8 stars, but I'll have to add one, to counter the cretins. Very well-acted and skilfully directed throughout.
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