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Notorious

Alfred Hitchcock

One of Hitchcock's finest films of the 1940s, Notorious uses its espionage plot about Nazis hiding out in South America as a mere background in order to focus on a perverse, cruel love affair between US agent Cary Grant and alcoholic Ingrid Bergman, whom he blackmails into providing sexual favours for the German Claude Rains as a means of getting information.

"The chemistry between Grant and Bergman, both playing against type, is electric..."

An official selection of the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, Notorious was one of the biggest US film releases of that year, infamous for its clever evasion of the Motion Picture Production Code’s restriction on screen kissing. Limited in Hollywood to three seconds at the time, Hitchcock had the characters pull away every three seconds, nuzzling each other only to resume kissing, for a total of two-and-a-half-minutes.

The chemistry between Grant and Bergman, both playing against type, is electric and Rains manages to achieve what must have been unthinkable so soon after the war, a sympathetic Nazi character. Suspense there is, but what really distinguishes the film is the way its smooth, polished surface illuminates a sickening tangle of self-sacrifice, exploitation, suspicion, and emotional dependence.