{film} a hitchcock & a comédie romantique

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Film studies like my Literature courses taught me a very important truth: just because I need to view/read a classic or iconic piece does not mean I will enjoy it—or even get it (without certain contexts, and even then). The most liberating assertion was that I didn’t even have to like it, I just had to find a place of respect and articulate my displeasure critically (in the academic sense of the word). However, one needn’t groan at the mention of “classic” or even “award-winner,” either; at least, that is what I am trying to teach Natalya. But Hitchcock is hardly a chore and I believe anyone could sit down and enjoy North by Northwest (1959) without the need for instructional aid; at least, that was what Sean and I were trying to prove to Natalya the other evening. And it worked.

Like Poe or Lovecraft, Hitchcock quickly comes to mind during the non-challenge R.eader’s I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) and I usually opt for his mysteries over the outright horror films (because am very much a scaredy-cat and old enough to be okay with that). I think we tried Rear Window (1954) last year, but it didn’t click for N and figured we would try an adrenaline rush of another sort in North by Northwest. But we will be revisiting Rear Window, but I think N likes Cary Grant over James Stewart. I think she liked His Girl Friday (1940) and [gasp!] she didn’t care for It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)—but we’ll try that one again, too. I didn’t like Casablanca (1942) at all the first two times; it took Critical Approach to Film to enjoy it. Anyway, I digress.

For those unfamiliar, North by Northwest is about: “A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive” (IMDb). Enjoy the humor at Roger O. Thorton’s confusion over his very deadly situation, and smile even harder when his assassins fail to kill him in outlandish yet reasonable (?) ways—must make it look like an accident, of course… For RIP purposes, wonder at just how they will actually get rid of him, and try (w/ Thorton) to figure out who they are, and just who can be trusted?

North by Northwest was fun to watch with N because she was sucked down the rabbit hole with Thorton (Cary Grant) whom is so perfectly comedic and so deadly earnest at the same time. While she, too, was figuring out just what the heck was going on! I was able to admire Hitchcock’s direction, and not just those iconic shots paid homage to time and time again. I was especially appreciative, this time, of the way he begins amping up audience anxiety from the very opening of the film. The large quick paced crowds, cuts and directional shifts. He was setting up the hustle and bustle, and the anonymity, of the high urban workday sure, but why not make it work on people’s nerves at the same time.

North by Northwest is a great film and perfect for the autumnal (RIP-participating) season. I enjoy it even knowing how things play out, but it was especially tasty experiencing the film again with someone who had yet to see it. I think we are ready for Orson Welles’ The Third Man (1949), don’t you?

{2nd image: North by Northwest by James Hance}

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Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings recommended a lovely romantic-comedy the other day and so we set it streaming on Netflix. The Jean-Pierre Améris directed film is: Les émotifs anonymes(Romantics Anonymous, 2010) And Carl’s review is here; which you should read, because 1) it is very good & 2) because it is that good and I have very little different to say I am not doing a full post review of my own.

I must emphasize these portions of Carl’s review:

—Benoît Poelvoorde (Jean-Rene) and Isabelle Carre (Angelique) display incredible performances. “From start to finish these two shy, bumbling characters light up the screen in each and every frame.” You can see Benoit/Jean-Rene sweat even before you discover its extent (and smile over his way of dealing with it). Isabelle/Angelique moves seamlessly into near-tears and impending faint. There are moments of greater normalcy if not outright confidence for each and they serve to measure these actors marvelous range. It truly is difficult to not believe the two inhabit their characters so completely as convincing as they are.

–“Romantics Anonymous is a romantic comedy to be sure, but its comedy is more subtle than slapstick and fits perfectly into the film’s overall mood. As an audience we are invited to laugh with these characters and not at them and in the process you empathize with them as they struggle valiantly to overcome their shyness and anxiety.” There is a really great balance here of physical comedy and the quiet awkward exchange. The timing of silence/dialog, movement/stills, and even of a sweet little soundtrack makes this film a great romantic comedy. You can empathize and laugh and get lost to neither. The direction really minds the audience (and characters’) need for catharsis, because the situation is ever on the verge of all out tragedy and we (and the characters) feel it keenly.

–“This is a film with a small but effective cast.” The supporting cast really is enjoyable. The therapist and the girl who can’t say “no” are favorites, but they all play wonderfully heightening whatever situation the main characters have embroiled them in.

In addition:

–it is a testament to how many times I have watched Sound of Music to not only recognize “I Have Confidence”
in French (J’ai confiance) when Angelique uses it as her “theme song,” singing it to herself to boost her confidence, but to recognize her use of the same choreography. I think Sean was surprised and disturbed.

–Benoit’s family motto is “Let’s hope nothing happens to us” (Finding Nemo came to mind) and Benoit struggles with the knowledge that nothing does not only mean the frightful things, but the beautiful as well. And that the beautiful can be frightful, except while we may know it to be worthwhile, he has yet to fully arrive there. Notably, this is not a motto Angelique lives by as she doesn’t have Benoit’s situation of privilege financially (though that is a looming question) and she has ambitions of finding love and pursuing her creative/career interests. She embodies the idea that being brave does mean one is without fear—the kind of truth in a heroine we have been missing from book/screen.

–the ending was really really sweet and you come to fully appreciate how nothing in the film feels saccharine or contrived.

Les émotifs anonymes would be a nice addition to a weekend involving Amelie (for color palette, French subtitles, and idiosyncrasies),  Mostly Martha (for neuroses, food, and romance), and especially Chocolat (for chocolate, romance, and dramatic humor).

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl V. says:

    A couple of great film choices. I didn’t watch much Hitchcock until I got older but I sure do appreciate his work, be it the half hour show he hosted or his actual films. He was one interesting character. I believe the last time I saw North by Northwest was in college. In other words, its been far too long. I’m pleased to see that you are following the same route we did with our daughter, exposing her to a wide variety of classics and films in general so that she is a well rounded person, film-wise. Good job!

    If she doesn’t like Stewart yet you may try You Can’t Take it With You. Starts out slightly slow but it gets fun and wacky as it goes. And of course if she likes Grant then it is wide open: Bringing up Baby (possibly my favorite), Arsenic and Old Lace (perfect for RIP), Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, and on and on and on.

    Happy to see that you guys enjoyed Romantics Anonymous. It would be the perfect pairing with the films you mentioned. What a great weekend that would be. Plan some interesting menus, make some great chocolate-based desserts and just have a visual feast along with an actual feast.

    I thought the musical number was so clever the way they handled it with the subtitles. They posted the words at the beginning and then didn’t do so during the dance which would have marred the performance somewhat. Gives the non-French speaking audience a chance to connect with the song when it matters later on. I loved that.

    When he shared that saying of his father’s it just broke my heart. Got a bit choked up there because you could feel his pain so acutely. Such a well acted film.

  2. L says:

    I am taking note of your classic film recs. I do love Bringing up Baby and Sean and I were trying to figure out if she’d seen it, not that we need an excuse, of course. and I haven’t seen Arsenic and Old Lace forever.

    Yeah, a food and film weekend…mmm.

    “acutely” is right, and I love how affected the therapist is, and his move from his chair to the couch beside him.

    1. Carl V. says:

      That moment with the therapist was very powerful. I think one of the things that impressed me so much about this film is that it is far from just being the romantic comedy it appears to be.

  3. ibeeeg says:

    Oh wow – Carl’s suggestion for a food and film weekend sounds grand and a luxury i don’t have but maybe one day.

    Thanks for the reminder about Hitchcock. I have viewed a few films in the past and enjoyed but do not remember much worthwhile for discussion. I did not think about viewing those films with the girls, I will see if Elliana is up to a viewing of North by Northwest. She is the only older girl home this evening,

    I envy your family movie watching and discussions that ensue, my group of kids…mostly the little one especially Isaiah …do not lend readily for this. I should start snagging one girl here and there to watch a movie with.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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