notorious. [another day, another movie: noir #2]

One of the most exciting things about this upcoming month of all things classic noir is the remarkable talent involved. It wasn’t a true genre, but instead a stream of films with a particular mood, themes, or generally dark worldview. However, it was enormously popular, and it seems just about everyone wanted to get their hand in, often multiple times. Thus, after Bogie for day one, day two upped the ante with Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains (you probably know him as the Vichy Captain from Casablanca).

As a brief aside: I’m still a noir novice, it’s an extremely difficult type of film to nail down, so you often find contention as to what counts as a noir and what does not. There are the easy ones, like, Maltese Falcon, Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity. The films in that mode are so iconic as noir films, and everybody agrees. However, beyond the easy ones, I am still incapable of deciding what is and isn’t film noir. The primary source I am using to sidestep this problem is the They Shoot Picture, Don’t They noir list: They Shot Dark Pictures, Didn’t They? 250 Quintessential Noir Films (1940-1964). It’s a compilation of the most cited films in noir history during that era, based on TSP’s research. You should check out the linked article if you want a helpful primer on film noir. TSP loves noir movies so much, making it a really enjoyable resource.

Anyway, I mention that because I never would have guessed that Notorious counted as a noir film if it weren’t selected by TSP. It is also listed on the wikipedia page for film noir as one of the four consensus noir films by Hitchcock (along with Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, and The Wrong Man).

Suffice it to say, I still have a lot to learn, and I love it.

Notorious is a story of post WWII espionage. Alicia Huberman’s (Ingrid Bergman) father has just been convicted of treason for working with the Nazi’s, but knowing she is loyal to the great old USA, she is approached by the perfectly handsome T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to get chummy with her father’s Nazi friends to thwart any plans they may have. The two fall in love on their way to Brazil, which is where the Nazi’s are hanging out, only to discover that her mission involves seducing an old friend of her father’s. He’s pissed she’s willing to do it, she’s pissed he didn’t ask her not to, and we set off on a dangerous story of lies and betrayal. Good times.

The film is on 19 official lists on iCheckMovies, has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, and has been selected (separately) by both Time and Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 greatest films of all time.

You should watch it.