Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reading the Uncertain Minds

It's hard to imagine a more intimate movie than Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. There are at least three different high wire acts going on--Devlin's internal struggle between his feelings for Alicia and his general mistrust of her and possibly all women, Alicia's attempt to deceive Sebastian, and Sebastian's attempt to deceive Alicia. Cary Grant felt this was Ingrid Bergman's movie, and certainly, the whole film is from her POV except for a few scenes given to Sebastian and the film's last couple scenes, given to Devlin. But mostly it's Alicia trying to read the faces of the men around her, and we read with her as she's the one who's kept at the audience's level of informed.

But what I mean by intimate is that the movie succeeds at being mostly made up of close-ups because so much of the story is in the subtle changes in characters' faces--it's no wonder this movie's considered Cary Grant's greatest work as an actor as he conveys being torn up inside while at the same time making you think it could just be your imagination, just as Alicia would see it. The "love test" he employs, shutting out Alicia from his feelings to make her feel like she's alone, is shown to be another example of the folly of man's machinations in the film because of the way you can see it tearing up both him and her.

Bergman's performance is just as nuanced, her face in her first meeting with Sebastian conveys to us her fear at recognising Prescott while being subtle enough that we can legitimately believe Sebastian doesn't notice. Everyone's pretending to feel something they don't, but the close-ups make everyone's actual motives seem dangerously close to the surface. The volumes spoken by every twitch of the eye, every furtive sidelong glance, seem to make this movie endlessly fresh to me.

I have a feeling a lot of modern audiences just wouldn't get a movie like this--I kind of think people aren't as empathetic as they used to be. The film was certainly a nice change after the episode of Angel I watched a couple nights ago, where Angelus deceives his friends into believing he's Angel. I've come to like Boreanaz's performance as Angel, but he never sells Angelus the Master Manipulator to me, mainly it just like everyone else happens to seem less intelligent all of sudden.

Actors who just successfully act completely different to play a deceiver can be fine, like the deceptive characters on the sixth episode of Dollhouse's second season, which I watched with breakfast. Still digging Summer Glau, and I noticed another Vertigo reference as Senator Perrin's wife was another blond in a grey suit from Salina, Kansas (though the actress accidentally pronounced it "Salinas"). I loved that Topher made a doll version of himself, but a couple important things bothered me about the episode. For one, yes, obviously Topher's bigger than Bennet and could probably take her in a fight, but he's still a nerd who spends most of his time indoors with computers. I don't buy that he could knock her out with one punch, but I guess that's a conceit of television action fiction. Still, Bennet had a little tranquiliser gun on the table, he could've used that instead. And Adele grabbing Ray Wise by the balls to get her way was just a bit cheesy. Realistically, he could've threatened her with at least as much violence.

I've been feeling a bit light headed the past couple days, having difficulty concentrating. Abdominal pain seems mainly gone, though. I'm going to see Morrissey to-night with my sister, hopefully that'll help me feel better.

Last night's tweets;

Torn notes are worth personable money.
Mailmen make mashed letter oatmeal with rain.
The bank ghosts think many things are funny.
Brilliant leaves race water down a curb drain.

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