Monday, March 27, 2017

First Class saloon, the Normandie

The radiant, febrile blonde has dis-
appeared, having betrayed him already 
once. The authorities have redoubled 
their resistance to his innocence. 
The hero absconds with himself in a 
stolen suit without defensive fire-
power, and Alfred Hitchcock has 39 
minutes left, to make it interesting. 

An art critic I admire considerably, 
has warned me that most fine cinema 
expires after a half hour. There have 
been 47 rather minor minutes already. 

God help the odds.

The hero leaps from a window to im-
merse himself in a temperance parade, 
having established his cocktail bona 
fides in the first 10 minutes. The 
strain is equally great upon us all, 
for, suddenly, originally, that man 
is the subject of no Dominion, no cus-
tom in common with anyone but himself. 

The cliffs hang with him in his flight 
for safety and rebuttal of the charge 
of willful murder. We know how Roger 
Thornhill worked it out, in North by 
Northwest. The difference in the pres-
ent film is that the story’s not played 
for comedy; and although the blonde’s 
betrayals are as constant as in Thorn-
hill’s saga, this one’s recantation 
turns upon a truth which sets them  
free as one.

We are likely to admire this movie 
more than we did, sitting by a fire 
in our college club library, half a 
century ago. In its time, it was a
scandalously free adaptation of a
popular text, without violating an
underlying pulse of stateless terror; 
bright fantasy in a time when the Wes-
tern world was coming apart, a witty 
feedback loop with no loose ends. Be-
neath it all, an immanent pressure is 
as obvious as the clock above our head.
These men act quickly, the victim says,
very quickly.

Grab a Scotch and hold a hand, and
kiss somebody senseless at the end.
It's Alfred Hitchcock, all the way.
What has it in common with the Nor-
mandie? No more than its birthday.
Yes, we have our MacGuffin today.

Alfred Hitchcock
Charles Bennett
  and Alma Reville
John Buchan
Robert Donat
Madeleine Carroll
Peggy Ashcroft
John Laurie
The 39 Steps

Robert Doisneau
The school clock

SS Normandie
1935 - 1942
Color by Walker

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