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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Just after the Second World War, a Nazi is sentenced by an American court for treachery.
The intelligence services decide that his playgirl daughter Alicia (Bergman) could be useful to them, to find out what some of his cronies are up to in Brazil.
They send in smooth spook Devlin (Grant) to recruit her. Feeling the need to atone for her father’s guilt, she accepts, in principle, at least.
After a couple of days in Brazil together, the pair fall for each other – but then Devlin is called away to find out what Alicia’s job entails.
He returns to report that she’s required to get into a relationship with Alex Sebastian (Rains), whose house is being used as a cover for, well, who knows what?
Alicia is devastated that the man she’s fallen for – and who she hoped was falling for her – is now telling her she has to sleep with someone else.
Before long, she’s living with Sebastian, despite the opposition of his overbearing mother.
Every step of the way, Alicia tries to make Devlin jealous – praying she’ll win his heart, but he remains professional throughout – however much pain he’s causing himself beneath the surface.
She keeps meeting him to offload what she’s learnt, and soon, Sebastian starts to get suspicious and jealous in equal measure.
As secrets emerge, almost everyone finds their life at risk, in this classic Hitchcock suspense thriller.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Bergman’s desperation and Grant’s cold professionalism provide the perfect fodder for a tragic love story, against the backdrop of an espionage thriller – or is it that Rains’ desperation and Bergman’s irresistible beauty provide the perfect fodder for an espionage thriller against the backdrop of a tragic love story.
Either way, Hitchcock ties these two storylines together seamlessly.
As Alicia edges closer to the Nazis’ secrets, he piles on the emotional futility as he ratchets up the tensions, bit by bit, giving the tiniest details immense significance.
Even sixty three years after the film’s initial release, the simplicity and subtlety of Hitchcock’s direction will have you holding your breath in anticipation, at almost every turn.
But it does feel dated. A modern equivalent of a film like this would have more action, more love, more intrigue – and it would be painted across a broader canvas, feeling less stagey.
That said, the stage for much of the film, Sebastian’s house, is artfully filmed.
And it’s welcome that Notorious has the kind of low-key ending that a Hollywood remake – rather than a reissue – would probably eschew for an all-guns blazing finale.

Reissued nationwide 16th January 2009

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