Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets!

Raz informed me earlier that he saw that there was a midnight showing of North by Northwest at the Paris Theater. As soon as I heard that, it became the highest priority to get to see that film. No, it's not the deepest one Alfred Hitchcock made, but it is still one of the most entertaining motion pictures ever made, and it's one that I've never seen on the big screen. And one thing is for damn sure, I'll never look at Eva Marie Saint the same way again. There are certain subtleties that as excellent as the transfer is on the superb Warner Brothers DVD, video just doesn't have the resolution to convey, and she adds layers to her performance that only become apparent the second time one watches the film (an aspect that she shares with many other lead women in Hitchcock films, the artistic apothesis of which is Kim Novak in Vertigo) but what really became apparent tonight is that the eroticism of Saint's screen presence in this film is severely muted on the television screen. There is something to that old school kind of star power that is rarely seen today, not so much because people can't command the screen anymore (they can), but because the language of cinema has changed as the culture producing it did, and the methods actors use in conveying these things are very different now.

I also want to mention that one of the most prominent sequences in the film, the one that yields the trademark image from the film of Cary Grant running from the airplane, has always been considered a benchmark of action sequences. It is often referred to as the blueprint for the type of set-pieces that the James Bond films would later feature. I've seen this scene many times in many formats. I saw it on pan and scan VHS, I've seen faded prints on broadcast TV, I saw a decent transfer on the widescreen laserdisc and I saw the glorious restored version on the DVD... but I'd never seen it projected before. It is one of the few unscored sequences in the movie, all that is heard in the sequence is the drone of the biplane, and it is insanely gripping. The big screen gives it an impact that it is robbed of on video.

This movie also has some of the best villains. James Mason is wonderful, he's so perfectly cast as the pleasantly malevolent Vandamm (he made my favorite screen Brutus in John Houseman's 1953 Julius Caesar). Martin Landau is cold and brutal (and coded as a homosexual, of course). The two of them make a great unit, as Landau comes across as invulnerable and Mason comes across as so very vulnerable, though that makes him all the more dangerous.

I recently made a post about action scores, and you can't really beat an adventure score by the great Bernard Herrmann himself. I was so satisfied to hear that rollicking fandango, especially during Thornhill's wild ride and the climax on Mount Rushmore. Leaving the theater I commented to Raz that it felt weird to be walking around and not have that circular 'cello motif weaving in and out.

Pure movie geek bliss from beginning to end on many different levels.

Oh, and we found this outstanding pizza place only a few blocks away.
Tags: cinema
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