Saturday, October 01, 2011

"North by Northwest" (1959) - Movie Classic

What a smooth classic “North by Northwest” is? And to watch in my backyard projecting over a giant screen along with several people blanketed to survive the fall cold is something of an experience. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic drapes Cary Grant as the dashing advertising executive going for a spin into the old yet classic mistaken identity and web of conspiracies. Opening with titles shown with animation at its earliest and forming an iconic status to have those as one of its kind, the film assembles from a slow suspense into full fledged grandiose spectacle of ridiculously amazing stunts, locations and a finale that keeps you wondering how the heck they shot and how much the studio flooded their money on this venture.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill is a man of sleek, style and sarcasm. He is the man from that time where know Don Draper in Mad Men TV series drew inspiration to be Cary Grant. Men like Thornhill just need to be there for the women to fall all over him in a flash. What turns to be a regular business meeting, goes as it is until he gets up to telegram his mother and we learn why he wanted to make sure to keep her posted once we meet her. It is bad timing of him to get up at the same time when someone else is paged. Result, he gets kidnapped by two characters at gun point to Long Island. There he meets a classy but sneaky dude (James Mason) addressing our front man by the name of George Kaplan. Denying it does not help and they are going to get what they want out of Thornhill.

What comes after that is a series of adventure Thornhill did not sign up for. He gets forced drunk, drive drunk while escaping, enter UN, dodge people by wearing shades, catch train, board a bus, duck from a plane and finally cling onto faces of former Presidents of USA in Mount Rushmore. All this and I have not even mentioned about the ravishing and elegant Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendell who helps Thornhill in his train travel to escape authorities. And the intriguing dining scene where Eve invites him blatantly through dialogues that are outlandishly open but unusually subtle. They spend the night as we learn slowly the game Eve plays. Who is George Kaplan? Why is James Mason’s Phillip Vandamm wants him dead? This and more gets answered as expected in the classy way.

When you watch a Coen brothers’ film, you can see that every scene has been defined, well defined and has that stamp which is not distracting but adds value to it. Here is Hitchcock several decades before going through that exercise with precision on each of the camera angles and shots. Either it is the transitioning shot from outside of train focusing on the snaky curve of this locomotive to the inside of the vessel or the aerial shot in the middle of nowhere in Illinois as Thornhill waits for to be attacked in open ground, there is a definition and an explanation that brings the appreciation in its viewer of effort being put out there for their enjoyment and for the artistic fulfillment.

Cary Grant and his suit are with us for almost every short of the film and advices men to get better suits. And his delivery that borders on being stoic is where it should be when he is comfortable even in the most uncomfortable places and side steps into animated when a man being chased by planes would react and yet he is the coolest cucumber I have seen in few of the classics I have seen. He is devilishly handsome and when Eva Maria Saint’s Eve Kendell seduces him, while we doubt her intentions, there is no doubt for a woman to fall for this man. Their chemistry which is purely sexual somehow transforms in to genuine love out of nowhere when the end approaches.

The film blows money through the noses of the statues of Mount Rushmore and sprays currency out of the biplane that dust crops. The studio immensely trusted on the name of Hitchcock and he gave them what they wanted. The writing by Ernest Lehman is the main character despite the charm of Grant and sexy Saint. Wit and sarcasm from its characters in desperate situations are home to the films of that era and especially to the genre of film noir but here it slides in with a smoothness of butter and cream through Grant and others. The plot and set up that is so overblown in many cases somehow makes it out thoroughly entertaining. How did they think this would please audience and not poke holes onto their logic? It almost wants me to say that this is the birth of huge block busters though it had characters too unlike the metal clashing stupidity that is being spit out every other year.

“North by Northwest” has one of the coolest switch from an edge of seat literal cliffhanger to an immediate happy ending. Hitchcock seems to have had all the fun he could have till that point and after that it does not seem to matter to elongate on obligations. He goes for the kill in the danger of breaking traditions and ends it even before people could digest the crazy set they pulled for the finale. I think I enjoyed more than I expected mainly due to the fact it was seen in an environment it was meant to be seen. Big screen, open air theatre and surroundings of people who were enthralled by this time capsule of a film. What more one could ask for from a classic?


natasha Mittal said...

that was a great movie watching experience!

natasha Mittal said...

that was such a good movie!

Ashok said...

Thanks Natasha and I am glad you enjoyed the film and the movie watching experience! :-)