quinta-feira, 27 de maio de 2010
'North by Northwest,' 1959
'North by Northwest,' 1959
During one of the satirical cocktail conversations in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" (1948), two women debate the virtues of James Mason ("so attractively sinister!") and Cary Grant. So it was perhaps a fulfillment of a directorial dream when, 11 years later, Hitchcock pitted these two stars against each other in his most glorious adventure fantasy, "North by Northwest." It reminds you of how magical and emotionally satisfying movie escapism can be, especially in the current era of "Transformers." It's never passed out of circulation, so it doesn't carry the extra charge of rediscovery. But it's a great movie -- probably Hitchcock's most influential, since it's had as much of an influence on the tone and set pieces of James Bond films as did Ian Fleming himself. It's set in a coolly amoral, mostly upper-crust fantasy land stretching from Long Island to Mount Rushmore -- as if the entire fragmented contemporary world had inspired the suave, bitchy banter and cynical courage of men and women living by their wits."North by Northwest" is of all Hitchcock films the most fitting testament to his reputation as the complete film-artist-as-game-player. The film has never ceased running on TCM, and yet, watching adman Cary Grant get embroiled in an espionage plot involving a cosmopolitan master agent -- Mason! -- and a mysterious beauty, Eva Marie Saint, is vastly more pleasurable on the big screen. There you can fully appreciate the sportive precision of Hitchcock's compositions in such classic sequences as the crop-duster ambush and chase at a prairie road stop or the climactic pursuit across the faces of Mount Rushmore -- a deadly game of Chutes and Ladders with human tokens. The sleeping-car flirtation between Grant and Saint -- a mutual seduction, really -- showcases the mature sexiness of Hitchcock's work at its best. The sexiness is made all the more pointed by the divided emotions underneath the surface lust and humor. I think "Sabotage" (1936) and "Notorious" (1946) are Hitchcock's most broadly resonant movies, but on its own terms as a consummate light entertainment, "North by Northwest" beautifully illustrates one of Hitchcock's overriding themes: the subversion of everyday life by the tumult of the 20th century, and the need for men and women to make a separate peace. At the start, Grant is a dithering executive caught up in a whirl of meaningless appointments, but as he demands to know the truth behind the spy plot he's tumbled into, he becomes a more substantial person. Grant plays his role with perfect charm: He's both the embodiment of old-time comic-romantic movie stardom -- a terrific foil for Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman's jokes (the other characters are always commenting on his good looks and tailoring) -- and an actor with such untrammeled energy that you never doubt his potential to take on the world. When, in the course of the movie, he loses the vestiges of his banal existence and risks his life for love on Mount Rushmore, he -- and Saint and Hitchcock -- scale the heights of screen romance.