Thursday, May 21, 2009

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959, USA) A case of mistaken identity leads Roger Thornhill/George Kaplan on a race for his life, wanted by the police for a murder he didn’t commit, pursued by Russian spies, and eventually into the arms of a seeming femme fatale. Alfred Hitchcock’s vogue thriller doesn’t veil its eroticism, as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint’s one night stand is blatantly exposed, the innuendo as subtle as a sledgehammer. The story’s adrenaline rush from an ordinary luncheon with friends to a shootout atop Mount Rushmore is fantastic, whiplash suspense around every turn as we hope Thornhill can escape from his pursuers and clear his name; meanwhile, the government agency seems callous to risk his life for a “greater cause”. The MacGuffin is the stolen microfilm, a plot device that is of no value except to give the antagonists a reason to flea the country under cover of darkness. Grant plays the part of hunter and prey with a subtle humor and existential dread, the feeling that his life is at the mercy of something larger than himself, but is able to infuse Thornhill with a sarcasm and mordant wit to maintain emotional balance. The auction scene is both hilarious and deadly serious, and Grant walks this thin line to perfection. Hitchcock utilizes interesting locations to generate narrative frisson; from an Indiana cornfield and a murderous bi-plane to the top of Mt. Rushmore, we are taken on an erotic thrill ride that climaxes in a tunnel of love. (B+)

No comments: