Before I go into detail on the numbered topics for this sequence, I want to say that Notorious is far and away my favorite Hitchcock movie. I've seen it many times over the years and I never get tired of it. Sometimes I find a scene or shot that I never took notice of in prior viewings. All of the things Prof. Edwards mentions in the Lecture Video are true for me as well. The casting is perfect, the acting is perfect, the costumes are awesome, and the cinematography is outstanding. In the movie, I want to point out a sequence in which Hitchcock builds suspense by just the merest effort. He doesn't need to bang this into our heads, it's just there. While Grant/Bergman are snooping around for the wine, Hitchcock sets up the disappearing champagne bottles as a reason for them to get caught. When Alicia first looks at the ice chest, there are ten bottles, then Devlin looks at the ice chest and counts only seven, Pretty soon they see there are only three bottles left and they must act before Claude Rains goes down to the wine cellar for more champagne. Alicia and Devlin walk across the room and out to the patio to get to the cellar. What really hooked me in this scene is everyone at the party is drinking champagne! The people standing around and chatting, all the guests on the patio are drinking glasses of champagne. It is a small thing, but it manages to ratchet up the suspense just that much and more. This is genius.
1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie?
Opens with a party scene with lots of drinking. We have a mysterious man in shadow, we can't quite get a grasp of what Devlin's all about. There is a beautiful woman in bed, peering over the covers, and then we see the odd angled POV shot that spins around. We also have 'modern' gadgets in the phonograph player and secret recording. I'm not sure people knew all about that in those times. And then we see a budding romance, or at least some interest. There is also a shot of the light streaming in through the window with strong shadows. Of course, the close up of the glass of bromo-seltzer (?) next to Alicia, with Devlin urging her to drink it, foreshadows the end of the movie when Alicia is being poisoned and Alex and his mother are constantly urging Alicia to "drink her coffee", which is laced with poison. Nice!!!
2. How does Hitchcock choose to light, frame, and photograph his two stars in this scene?What are some of the contrasts that Hitchcock trying to set up between these two characters through art direction, costume, and cinematography?
Hitchcock just uses his genius to show how remarkably beautiful Ingrid Bergman, the star, is; despite waking up with a raging hangover. He shines a light on her in a very beguiling way, with her hair piece falling off, yet she's luminous. She has a fabulous outfit on, that seems very fashion forward for the times. Grant's character, Devlin, is shown as kind of mysterious. We aren't sure how it's going to go with him - hard or easy? - and Hitchcock brings this out by having him standing in the shadows and only lastly coming into the light when he reveals his motivation for getting together with Alicia. Hitchcock has the initial view of him, through Bergman's bleary eyes, beautifully shot with him going from standing in the doorway shadow and then turning upside down as Alicia turns over. She's established as a party girl, trying to forget her father's treason and trial, and her anger that Devlin is bringing that all back by taking advantage of it.
3. Based on this scene (or the entire film if you have seen it already), reflect on the casting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Does this scene conform to or challenge their well-known star personas?
This movie could do nothing but put extra polish on these two stars. It shows a fabulous, gorgeous, couple falling in love and spying for the good of the "country" thrown in as hot sauce. I believe this might have been a bit of a departure for Grant, in that it is not a light comedy, or war movie, but Grant does very well in this ambivalent role - much as he did in Suspicion. He is the perfect romantic lead, handsome and sophisticated, yet possibly dangerous. I don't care who they cast as James Bond, Grant was the best at this kind of character, and Hitchcock puts that part of Cary Grant to work in this film. I cannot say anything bad about Bergman - her acting is superb! She says more with the **** of her eye or the angle of her head than many actresses say with pages of dialogue.