01 May 2010
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington left me hungry for more Claude Rains, so I rented and watched this. I continue my love-hate relationship with Mr. Hitchcock, but this falls in that early-mid category and for the most part, it works. There's a little bit more shorthand than I'd like in some of the emotional-setup moments (notably the agreeing to be a spy and falling in love beats feel rushed), and quite frankly Cary Grant feels even more stiff and robotic than usual, but the situations are wonderfully tense and clever and sticky. The character motivation is clear and their actions are interesting. The whole story hinges on Devlin lying about his feelings out of a sense of duty (and resentment of those feelings), and Alicia going along with it even though she knows better -- because what's the value of being loved if your lover won't admit their love to themselves, let alone to you?
Claude Rains and Ingrid Bergman, fantastic. A little funny watching a romance play out between Ilsa and Renault, but Rains felt and looked a little more like Albert Finney than he did a French Captain. Plus the chemistry (and lackthereof) was so nice, it felt real, and you could easily sympathize with our villain's plight at the end, betrayed by his love -- and by his own hubris. I couldn't help but wonder, especially in the context of Alicia's constant acceptance and encouragement of his love in the face of Devlin's stubborn stoicness, if Sebastian might not have accepted her love anyway, even if he had known she was using him. Surely not, with so much at stake, but it left me thinking about accepting the love that's given versus holding out for the love that's withheld. Whether or not Alfred Hitchcock wants me to be considering this while watching his tightly scripted espionage thriller... well, your guess is as good as mine.