North by Northwest

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That wasn’t very sporting, using real bullets…

Well it's been a couple of weeks again since I've watched a bit of the Hitchcock but only out of busyness; still on the back foot, but very much focused on the end goal. Since I last rambled on what I've affectionally come to call this 'Hitchblog' I have managed to get hold of several more films, many more of the earlier ones too which I hope to get through a few of soon… get out of the 50's for a while as I seem to have covered a lot of movies from that era so far, mostly because they are the easiest to come by and do represent a golden era of sorts for the film-maker, as any box set collector will no doubt have noticed.

Review

 

Cary Grant features once again, as Roger Thornhill, in this spy thriller, North by Northwest. The film is very much focused around Thornhill, or 'George Kaplin' as most people seem to be mistaking him for someone else. Very little happens outside of his presence in this movie, the camera is rarely off him, which I felt didn't give the audience the proper opportunity to learn a lot about the other characters in the film. The plot is somewhat confusing in places and I found that I was playing catch-up at a couple of points as the whole relationship between Kaplin and the criminals pursuing Thornhill was never fully clear.

I think that was possibly the intention anyway. To keep the audience slightly confused in the same way that Thornhill would have been, being chased and hunted with little explanation. Stop to ask too many questions and you'll wind up dead! I've been listening to an omnibus of interviews with Hitchcock recently and one of the many things he said that stood out when thinking about this movie was that he wasn't really interested in why people wanted to kill one another, more just how they would go about doing it. There are definately a few interesting ways of being killed in this fast paced action flick!

Which brings me to the crop duster scene. normally I wouldn't add too much of a spoiler here but I feel that even if you haven't seen the film (which I hadn't before either of course) you will know this scene very well. It has a level of infamy about it, much in the way the Pscho shower scene does, and has been parodied left, right and centre by many other shows… The Simpsons seem to stick out particularly in my mind.

This scene is really the high point in the film, the bit that's so well conceived that you could remove it from the film entirely and it would stand up on it's own as a short story. And not so much because of the stand off with crop duster itself, but more because of the excellent prolonged scene of tension leading up to the attack. Thornhill has arrived in the middle of nowhere via bus to meet someone who can potentially help him, only to find nobody is waiting… what follows is a very quiet, very eerie wait by the roadside with the odd vehicle or two passing slowly from one distant horizon to the other, none of them stopping to speak as he is anticipating… we catch very brief glimpses of the duster on the horizon, seemingly innocent to Thornhill, but the audience know better! His ignorance of what we know is about to come causes a great level of tension in the viewer.

I suppose I should cover the romance with Eve Kendall (played by Eva Marie Saint) too. I felt that was all a bit sudden and forced in this film. Unlike Rebecca or Notorious where there is a clear amount of time passing for feelings to develop, it's all very sudden and not majorly convincing this time round in a film that only spans about 48 hours. Although one thing I will give Hitchcock is that he has once again made a good job of creating a leading woman who feels equal to the leading man in the film. He doesn't like to make his women too soft from what I've seen so far, and again this takes my mind back to the interviews I was listening too. He stated that he didn't like women to wear their 'sex' on the outside. It should be something that's underneath, something to be discovered, not displayed. I feel that does give his films some authenticity overall as that is how most people are. We don't all walk around wearing our heart on our sleeve and leaving nothing to the imagination, even in a Hollywood action picture. People are closed and guarded generally and we have to use all our wit to bring one another's barriers down… or get framed for murder… that seems to do the trick too apparently!

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