135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: 135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

#101 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:51 pm

Can anyone make head or tails out of Svet's Notorious review? It's filled with so many vagaries and abstract interpretations and words (a film's "identity", for instance), that I can't really figure out what he's trying to argue. It also seems to me he never explicitly says what the "straightforward political messaging" is. I admit I'm at odds with his suggestion that Ingrid Bergman is anything less than great here. I think this is perhaps her best performance.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: 135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

#102 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:55 pm

He probably just finds himself nonplussed and vaguely threatened by an anti-fascist narrative in a way he can't quite put his finger on...

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Roscoe
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Re: 135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

#103 Post by Roscoe » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:32 am

The new Blu-Ray of NOTORIOUS has some oddities in it -- for the first time, that trick shot near the beginning, showing the POV of a guard peeking through a door at proceedings in a courtroom, with the image framed by the door and the doorjamb, looked really transparently fake. The wood elements were moving just enough to be noticeable, likewise the central image of Mr. Huberman flanked by lawyers facing the judge, and I sat there wondering why somebody didn't do something to just, you know, stabilize the image if possible. Similarly, I've long been aware of the shadows cast by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman on the rear-projection screen as they struggle in the car, but hadn't noticed the really blatant shadow cast on another rear-projection screen by the traffic cop as he dismounts from his motorcycle.

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HitchcockLang
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Re: 135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

#104 Post by HitchcockLang » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:30 am

Can anyone with experience give me your opinion as to whether the old MGM blu is worth hanging on to for its two different commentaries?

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Godot
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Re: 135-137 Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious

#105 Post by Godot » Thu Jan 24, 2019 6:36 pm

Professor David Bordwell's latest blog post covers his supplement on the new Criterion Notorious blu-ray release. He also has some great links at the bottom to Greg Ruth's cover art discussion (from Criterion's own site), St. Adrian Martin's video essay with Cristina Lopez, and a Greenbriar Picture Shows post on the sexy advertising. I am really looking forward to picking this new edition up (this will be my sextuple dip on home video - embarrassing? or a testament to the evolving nature of entertainment editions?).

Apropos of that,
HitchcockLang wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:30 am
Can anyone with experience give me your opinion as to whether the old MGM blu is worth hanging on to for its two different commentaries?
I suppose it depends on how much you enjoy commentaries - I think they are one of the greatest features of LDs/DVDs/blu-rays, so I hoard them and like having a variety of them on any given movie. I liked Richard Jewell's, I think his are a bit more engagingly historical in general (I recommend I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang), compared to Drew Casper's, which is a bit more Hollywood-focused and sometimes gossipy. But I enjoyed listening to both on the MGM set. I am particularly fond of Marian Keane's Hitchcock commentaries (which puts me in the solid minority on this forum, so caveat emptor), I held on to the previous Criterion DVD just for it, and I'm pleased that will be carried over to the new CC blu-ray release.

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Mr Sausage
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Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#106 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:41 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, April 29th.

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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#107 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:43 am

I read the novel late last year, having seen the film a couple times before. I loved the novel, and Hitch is mostly faithful to it, but returning to the movie (immediately after the novel) displays some of its weaknesses. The revelation in the film pushes the film to a halt after a strong first hour, where once you’ve learned what’s happened it’s essentially just a very long exposition drop, in my eyes. It has none of the power of Vertigo’s similar revelation. Especially because the narrator’s character arc is left incomplete in the film, or, rather, she hasn’t the character arc of the novel. There are certainly some sequences in the film that match the novel for power but the emphasis on male bonding in the second half of the film at the expense of the narrator also hurts it in my eyes (as briefly detailed earlier). It’s still enjoyable and everyone’s very fine in it, but it ranks low for me in terms of Hitchcock.

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Roscoe
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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#108 Post by Roscoe » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:48 am

I read the novel before I ever saw the film, this being in the years before home video and you had to wait for a rep house, if you had one nearby, to run things or hope that a local TV station might run something. The thing that I noticed when I finally saw the film, and still notice every time I see the film now, is the current Mrs. De Winter's behavior after the catastrophe with the dress. In the film, I always find it impossible to believe that anyone in that position wouldn't have told Mrs. Danvers to pack her bags and clear out immediately, and fuck the two weeks' wages and forget about a reference bitch, which wasn't the case when I read the book. Of course there are plot reasons why that can't happen, I entirely understand, but I still find it an example of a situation that worked on the page that didn't work when dramatized.

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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#109 Post by Jonathan S » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:58 am

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:43 am
It’s still enjoyable and everyone’s very fine in it, but it ranks low for me in terms of Hitchcock.
I agree; despite Hitch always being one of my favourite directors, for decades I didn't feel any need to have Rebecca in my collection... until I became a Hitchcock completist. Just as the equally overrated Lady Vanishes is a garrulous writers' picture, Rebecca (like Spellbound and Paradine Case) feels like one its producer's interminable memos in which words dominate everything else. Indeed I recall Selznick reshot sequences after Hitch left the project and of course he was the one who received the Oscar.

Its popularity as a romantic movie always surprises me (maybe it's a deliberately ironic Hitch touch that the marriage proposal is shouted off-screen from a hotel bathroom!?) I suppose Olivier's typically icy, rigid demeanour is more appropriate here than in some of his other roles but I rarely found him an interesting actor on screen. It's really left to Judith Anderson to supply the movie's only hints of real passion - I suspect that's primarily where Hitch's interest lay and, as usual with him, the nominal villain invites the most empathy from me.

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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#110 Post by schellenbergk » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:55 pm

Rebecca is - to me - an odd film. I like it but I don't love it. Usually I love Hitchcock's work, but I don't find it to be a typical Hitch film (too Selznek-y). So it doesn't work for me on the level of admiring the director's work.

What does work for me is that it's a great early example of LGBTQ Cinema. I watch the film now really for just one scene: where Mrs. Danvers lovingly caresses Rebecca's underwear. To me, it ranks as one of the great 'Queer' moments in pre-WW2 Hollywood.

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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#111 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:03 pm

For me, the moment where Danny attempts to persuade the new Mrs. de Winter to commit suicide is just as effective as anything else in Hitchcock. There's an overhead shot in the sequence that always appears with the excitement of invention, always unexpected somehow.

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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#112 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:31 am

I really like the film and don't react negatively to the some of the points described here. It’s a sneaky film in that it starts off fairly simply and then develops into a near epic-sized baroque monster full of tone changes and plot twists, as grand and labyrinthine as Manderley. That mansion really is a central "character", like the house in Psycho you could say. Visually very appealing also.

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Re: Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

#113 Post by dustybooks » Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:39 am

I'd seen Vertigo and many episodes of his TV shows as a child, but Rebecca turned me into a lifelong Hitchcock fanatic. (And probably a classic Hollywood fanatic to boot.) The claustrophobia and deceptive beauty of its world can feel in a way like an outlier in his work, but apart from its unusual debt to a famous (and excellent) text, it's really a fairly representative introduction to the kind of work he would do in Hollywood, of rendering Beautiful People / Beautiful Places into fixtures of tension and ugliness, as opposed to the scrappier, more working-class sensibility of his British films. (I think it was Bill Krohn who said once that Rebecca, thanks to its setting and florid Gothic sensibility, felt more European than, say, Young and Innocent.)

I know of at least one Hitchcock scholar who considers the midsection of Rebecca -- from the arrival at Manderley to the discovery of Rebecca's corpse -- to be the absolute pinnacle of Hitchcock's filmmaking. It's easy to understand why; it really is enchanting, and it has a ghostly urgency and resulting intensity of emotion he only came close to (or even attempted) with Vertigo, though its classic romanticism probably also has some analogies in Notorious. (Discarding The Birds, these two films and their almost palpable manifestations of the dead are as close as he got to showing us anything supernatural since the ghost in The Pleasure Garden.) I really believe Mrs. Danvers whispering "Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?" is one of the most chilling moments in cinema. Really all of the scenes in Rebecca's bedroom dance around on the edge of a nightmare in a way that strongly evokes the tower sequences in Vertigo for me; somehow, there's just some edge-of-life-and-death feeling Hitchcock touches there that I've not found elsewhere in the movies.

I've made peace over the years with how plotty the last hour or so is -- reading between the lines of the Truffaut interview, I feel this is probably what dissatisfied Hitchcock about the film, along with the fact that he clearly didn't have an entirely pleasant collaboration with Selznick. (I don't think it's entirely correct to say the movie is more Selznick's than Hitchcock's, though; for one thing, the latter shot the film in such an unorthodox manner that Selznick had a difficult time sculpting it to his preferences. I think Leonard Leff goes into a lot of detail about this in his book, and probably on the commentary he recorded for Criterion's disc.) As noted, it's unusual for Hitchcock to adapt a text that's so widely celebrated in and of itself; even in the case of a terrific book like Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, he clearly saw an opportunity to take the story somewhere better by adapting it freely, mostly using her vision as a launching pad, and very successfully. I don't know how Hitchcock felt about du Maurier's novel -- I am aware he liked her personally and I seem to remember a story that he looked into buying the rights before he came to Hollywood, but his treatment independent of Selznick would obviously have been very different -- but I know that he'd regretted the one time he adapted something he considered a "masterpiece," the Sean O'Casey play, because he felt it left him with no creative wiggle room. In the same way, I'm sure the level of fame of this novel and the obligations and pressure inherent to (a) adapting such a popular book in the first place and (b) doing so for David O. Selznick probably left him feeling his hands were tied in tying up various story obligations that, under other circumstances, could have been more ambiguous. Again, though, I think it works... especially if you read through the "code" and discern the darker things the film can't come out and say that the novel can. And he does manage to keep the macabre elements active with things like the wide-eyed, disturbed gardener at the inquisition who keeps repeating that he doesn't want to go to "the asylum," before gloriously bringing the nightmare back into focus with the closing fire and Danvers' surrender to madness.

Ever since I've been interested in film, it's always been bewildering to me that there's a certain subset of people who feel Hitchcock was an anti-"actor's director," that the camera was paramount over all else; there's truth in his attention to cinematic technique, clearly, but no one who disparaged the craft could have coaxed those miracle performances out of Judith Anderson and especially Joan Fontaine in this movie. You can name so many other moments of absolutely sublime-beyond-words acting in his films; I rewatched Strangers on a Train recently and Robert Walker's work in that is a great example. But Fontaine's capturing of alienation and anxiety in Rebecca is as good as it gets, for me; it's a perfect fusion with Hitchcock's mastery of storytelling to create this absolute sense of identification with the character and her thorny, horrifying situation, particularly in the second act. The director told Truffaut years later that he preferred making films about "situations" rather than plots, and if the lengthy setup and wordy, busy denouement (which is still engrossing and well-performed, if a huge and inevitable step down) are the only way we can have the intoxicating hour in which Fontaine's "I" is getting subsumed in the wonder and dread of Manderley, it's totally worth it.

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