|Sweetness, love and trust meets composure, hesitation and deceit. Is that what makes this picture so unforgettable?|
"You affect me like a tonic". Says Claude Rains to Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock's Notorious, and, of course, we feel exactly the same. We are just as infatuated with her as he is, although we also know that she is only pretending, playing a dangerous game as a double agent.
She has that wonderful way of offering him her cheeks, not in a real kiss, but more of a perfect cinematic kiss, the one that starts with a long look from someone whose face we can't see, is carried on to a plane where she blocks his view in order to get a better look out of the window, and further to the balcony scene, where the embrace is being both interrupted and prolonged by a telephone call.
Of course it is not Claude Rains who benefits from all this. It's the stone cold Cary Grant, down playing every move and line as if he were sleep walking through the film. And the colder he gets, the more she loves him, as if her mission was to warm up the North Pole.
Poor Claude Rains. He can't do anything to untie the bond between Ingrid and Cary, even though he is the one who marries her. And when she does embrace him, it is only to take his keys so she can help Cary get the MacGuffin. But the way Claude looks at her at the races, when she tries to hide her tears. and after they have kissed in the shadows at the party, is heartbreaking.
It's about lost love and love that can never be - and although it ends with Ingrid getting rescued and carried away in Cary's arms, there is a prevailing feeling of tragedy. Sometimes love comes too late, or is just not relevant enough. I believe this is something that both Hitchcock and Bergman knew - and probably Grant too.
Still I keep loving this movie like a fool, just as Claude Rains adores Ingrid. And there is some comfort in how that feeling prevails: I am just as touched today as I was thirty years ago, when I saw Notorious for the very first time.