Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dated

Suspicion: adapted by Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, and Alma Reville from the novel by Anthony Berkeley; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; starring Cary Grant (Johnnie) and Joan Fontaine (Lina) (1941): With the only Oscar-winning performance in a Hitchcock film -- Joan Fontaine for Best Actress -- one might imagine that this is first-rank Hitchcock. It isn't.

There's some question as to whether or not Hitchcock really was over-ruled by the studio about the ending. Whether or not he was, the movie makes absolutely no sense with the ending it has. The possibility that Hitchcock always intended the film to suggest that one character is delusional only makes sense within a framework in which either a number of events never actually occur, in which case the character is insane, or the events do occur but are coincidental, in which case the entire universe is insane.

Suspicion was a big financial success and gave Hitchcock a lot of creative control thereafter, as this was also the first film he produced as well as directed inside the Hollywood system. Regardless of the ending, the gender dynamics in Suspicion have dated so poorly that it's agonizing for repeated stretches, and not in a way that's enjoyable unless you're writing a paper on gender dynamics in Hitchcock films. Fontaine certainly gives some sort of performance, as she's on-screen for almost every minute of the movie. Grant is uncharacteristically menacing, which is interesting in and of itself.

There are the usual bravura Hitchcock touches, including a host of scenes in which shadows suggest spider-webs enveloping the characters, and the famous Glowing Glass of Milk Scene, which comes almost at the end of the picture if you're waiting for it. But for a 99-minute movie, this is awfully draggy, with almost schematically unlikeable characters made completely baffling by that godawful ending. But it's Hitchcock, so it's still lightly recommended.

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