Notorious (1946)

In one of Hitchcock’s darkest thrillers, a traitor’s daughter is engaged by an American agent to get close to one of her father’s Nazi associates.

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“Far from being a simple spy story, Notorious turns out to be an incredibly intricate exercise in irony and ambiguity, and one of the outstanding testaments of Hitchcock’s expressive complexity.
Andrew Sarris, You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet: The American Talking Film, 1998

Where Hitchcock’s other espionage thrillers such as North by Northwest (1959) are witty, light-hearted affairs, Notorious is an emotionally tortuous love story.

Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the society daughter of a condemned traitor, who is approached by US agent Devlin (Cary Grant) to ingratiate herself with the suave Sebastian (Claude Rains), a Nazi associate of her father’s in South America. Falling for Alicia, Devlin nevertheless stands by when her subterfuge leads Sebastian to ask her to marry him. In the masterful party sequence, Alicia helps Devlin gain access to the wine cellar where Sebastian is storing reserves of uranium ore; Hitchcock pits their furtive search against the clock by intercutting shots of the party’s steadily dwindling champagne supply. Notorious is among Hitchcock’s richest and most seductive films.

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2008) is a partial reimagining of the intrigue of Notorious transposed to Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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