Thursday, February 21, 2008

#7: "North by Northwest"

When reviewing in my head all of these choices, I continually say, "Wow! What a movie."

Such is it with this Hitchcock flick, which, frankly, in some ways is dated. The rollercoaster aspect of film, of this film, has been superceded by the hyper-manic likes of the latest "Mission Impossible" movie as much as if "North by Northwest" were "The Great Train Robbery." But on the big screen, the ARTISTIC thrill-- the joy of the canvas presented; the romance-- remains.

The hero of the romance, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), is on his own mythic journey, his plunge into the subconscious: the pursuit of his soulmate. The mythic aspects are well-hidden as the hero faces the forces of the modern world; finding adventure in everyday life.

Like Odysseus-- or like the hero in "Guns of Navarone"-- Cary Grant encounters a siren who seeks to destroy him, but this time the wayward adventurer goes beyond a superficial encounter with feminine wiles, attractions and pitfalls, to an adult realization of her true predicament, and maybe, her love for him. As in "Adventures of Robin Hood," he finds his mate in the camp of the enemy.

Beyond this, the hero realizes she (beautiful and deadly Eva Marie Saint) is his equal; is more than his equal. He is, after all, a mere mortal, a Madison Avenue ad man, while she seems to romp with the gods of adventure as a secret agent. She's very human at the same time, and beneath Hitchcock's "MacGuffin" plot the ad man's quest comes down to one thing: Her. Everything in his life prior becomes superficial; meaningless in comparison to his primal want.

In this tale Penelope is along on the adventure.

The closing minutes are breathtaking-- accompanied by the Bernard Hermann score-- as aging but still agile Cary Grant climbs up the wondrous house of the bad guys to save his mate and simultaneously prove himself worthy of her. Then they encounter America's historical icons on Mt. Rushmore and begin to scamper down from them.

This is great art but it's also film as experience. We're with the couple as they move about the monument (to Hermann's bombardment of music); moments that are thrilling and sexy.

What else can I say? It's a masterpiece.


Anonymous said...

"Roger O. Thornill - what does the O stand for?"

Anonymous said...

It's a great flick, but the romance is ridiculous. The couple knows nothing about each other other than he thinks she has a nice face.