Rope

Rope. This was pretty good, but not quite high enough suspense levels with all the dinnertime distractions. There are some great side characters, though. I like the novelty of having the movie run in real-time with one camera tracking around the room. It’s based on a play of the same name, which leads to a big downside for me: walking standing talking walking standing talking walking standing talking. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never gotten into theater that much. Only so many things you can do when you’re trapped in a room, and this is no Rear Window. My updated Hitchcock rankings:

  1. Rear Window
  2. To Catch a Thief
  3. Notorious
  4. Vertigo
  5. Rope
  6. Psycho
  7. Sabotage
  8. North by Northwest
  9. The Man Who Knew Too Much

James Stewart has a pretty good track record for me. I’ll need to see some more of his movies. And I think I’ve had my fill of Hitchcock for a while, unless there’s something really awesome I still haven’t seen…?

Sabotage

Sabotage. I’ll give Hitchcock credit for starting off in a snappy manner without much preamble, but my attention drifted a good bit here and there. Especially after the heartless, classic package delivery scene, which is both an impossible-to-beat mid-story climax and a colossal waste of time. It’s also really effective, even if you know what’s coming. I kind of resent Hitchcock’s skill at jerking my emotional chain for a few minutes, and then leaving me not caring very much when the moment passes. To his credit, he came to regret the scene later in his career as he developed as a storyteller.

My updated Hitchcock rankings:

  1. Rear Window
  2. To Catch a Thief
  3. Notorious
  4. Vertigo
  5. Psycho
  6. Sabotage
  7. North by Northwest
  8. The Man Who Knew Too Much

Notorious

Notorious. Highly recommended. We’re back in quality Hitchcock territory after that last fiasco. Grant recruits the scandalous socialite Bergman as a fellow spy. They go down to Rio and struggle with how far to take their work and their love. The highlight for me was the party/wine cellar scene (which starts with a famous shot). The ingenious tension in this comes from the simple issue of whether there is enough champagne, and thus, is there time/cover to sneak into the wine cellar? And there’s the clever screenwriting where Bergman excuses herself to request that the band play Brazilian music instead of waltzes, which also refreshes the soundtrack for the subsequent cellar snooping.

And I tell you what: Bergman is an incredible actress–maybe my favorite female film star? I like Grant in this one, too. I’ve long been ambivalent about him on screen, but I like that this role seems to have a touch of menace underneath, and a little less confidence. Great movie. Ebert says.

Vertigo

Vertigo. The first hour was really fun, there’s emotional anguish in the conclusion that I wasn’t expecting from Hitchcock, and several twists along the way that I totally didn’t see coming. James Stewart rules. The soundtrack was very good and the audio in general–engines, footsteps, city life–seemed really, really sharp. I’d rank it among the better Hitchcock films I’ve seen, but I think I’d put it in third place behind Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.

To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief. It’s a romance packaged in a crime movie, and it’s quite good. Not fantastic, maybe not even great, but thoroughly enjoyable. Definitely feels shorter than it is. I expected the camerawork and direction to be more Hitchcockian (the faux diamond scene is an exception). I still don’t think I get Cary Grant, but I definitely want to see more Grace Kelly films. And I have to mention that first kiss. In context, it is absolutely incredible. Just jaw-dropping.