Starring two of my very favorite Hitchcock regulars, Notorious is a visually stunning black and white espionage about a woman stuck between and rock and a Nazi. We all know what that’s like, right ladies? Ingrid Bergman stars (while wearing some fabulous outfits, I must say) as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi war criminal. Alicia is confronted by T.R. Devlin (a fabulously hansom Cary Grant) and asked to insert herself into a known Nazi ring now living in Brazil. That’s right, she is suckered into spy-work, a career I rather envy. Unfortunately, this career required Alicia to seduce an old friend of her Nazi-spy father’s, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), who always had a creepy thing for her.
Alicia travels with Devlin to Rio in order to trap Sebastian, but in the process she ends up falling for Devlin and vice-versa. When Devlin then fails to get her out of her duties, he decides cold stoicism is the best way to deal with their messy emotions. This approach sparks an odd cat and mouse game between the two of them that leads Alicia even deeper into her Nazi rabbit hole.
Devlin’s seeming indifference puts Alicia in a difficult spot, one in which she must marry one of the Nazis and presumably sleep with him and have to pretend to laugh at his jokes and go to dumb Nazi parties with him and have to listen to him bitch about Hitler and how he would do it so much better than Adolf (blah blah blah). I mean, after a certain amount of time you just can’t take it anymore. You stop pretending his machismo is cute and you finally tell him that you’d rather stay in and listen to the Andrews Sisters on vinyl.
That didn’t happen. Instead, she observes some rather shady activity, as one would expect. What one wouldn’t expect is that a guest at their table sees a typical looking bottle of wine and freaks out (no friend of mine, I can tell you that). He then says he must go home, only to be driven by another of their friends who, uh, kills him. I tried to think of a more graceful way to put that, but I’m tired and thought being blunt would work just as well. Alicia realizes that, while she has pretty much every key to every room in the house, she does not have one for the wine cellar. Devlin asks her to snag the key before a huge party, and while the Nazis rage, the two of them sneak down to see what the big secret is. Spoiler alter: it’s uranium ore being stuffed into wine bottles. Uranium is, of course, a key ingredient in world domination. Following the clues surrounding this uranium would surely turn up a dark and dastardly plot to get the Nazis back on top and a whole lot closer to that Aryan nation they were so keen on.
Sebastian discovers that someone has discovered his secret, and Alicia in turn discovers that her life is in some serious danger. Sebastian decides that he must kill Alicia, because to expose her as a spy and impostor would be to admit his own failure as a very smart white dude who wants to rule the world. His Nazi buddies can’t discover what he has discovered, or they will also discover that he sucks. But we already knew that. So he decides to poison Alicia slowly to death and make it look like illness.
I won’t spoil the end, but I have to say the last scene is one of the most badass, fist-pumping moments I’ve seen in a film. I actually would love to know what Beyonce thinks of the end of Notorious, because it definitely has a middle fingers up vibe. Every frustrating thing you feel throughout the course of the film is gloriously paid off in full in the last five minutes.
While Notorious was not exactly edge-of-my-seat thrilling, it was definitely fantastic. Granted, I did have to watch it twice because I had a period of about three months were I was so tired from working in the bowls of the engine room aboard the Titanic (horrible gas station job) that I actually fell asleep in the middle of it the first time around. It’s a quiet film.
Notorious is incredibly sophisticated in terms of theme, characters, and visual imagery. And also kissing, apparently. Hitchcock was able to maneuver around those pesky Production Code rules to create what some might view as a very erotic kissing scene (…that lasts entirely too long and is incredibly awkward, but I’m also emotionally stunted and don’t even let people hug me). While I’m being a jerk about it, Notorious really is an incredibly film for Hitchcock particularly because of its love story and romantic tones. While you might feel like you are watching an espionage thriller, you are actually witnessing a very deep and complicated love story. Bergman and Grant are fabulous and doing some of their finest work in this film. Everyone should witness it.
If you’re interested in watching Notorious, look no further than YouTube!