Thursday, March 5, 2009

North By Northwest


North By Northwest is an Alfred Hitchcock classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

I watched a few Hitchcock films (The Birds, Lifeboat) and his TV show when I was about ten. The TV show freaked me out and I gave up on watching him for a while. However, there is a decent chance that at some point I watched North By Northwest and just don't remember it.

Watching old movies to me, no matter how timeless, is like doing the dishes, eating Brussels sprouts or doing your math homework. It's not so bad, maybe even enjoyable once you do it, but the build up sucks. North By Northwest has been sitting on my TV for over 3 weeks as a testament to my reluctance.

However, I know it's important to always understand your history and be knowledgeable of the classics, so I made myself watch it over Bottle Rocket last night.

The movie wasn't bad, but I'm afraid that's probably about all I could say for it. It reminded me of a 1950's version of the Bourne Identity, which I realize is backwards and not the best analogy. The plot was interesting, the acting typical of the period and Eva Marie was a hotty.

There were a few moments where I think Hitchcock showed some of his quirkiness and genius and oddly it was at the very beginning and the end of the movie.

During the credits (old movies did credits first) Hitchcock does a cameo where a bus door is slammed in his face in the fast pace world of 1950's NY City. I'm not sure of the meaning, but it was interesting.

At the very end when a love scene is close to developing, it cuts to the cliched image of a train running through a tunnel for 2 seconds and then the movie ends. I literally laughed out loud at this part thinking about how it was funny they were poking fun at this cliche when I realized that this may be how the cliche developed.

Which highlights part of my reluctance to watch old movies. I don't get them. It's difficult to pick up on the subtle humor or the social issues they may be trying to point out when you watch films like this without a knowledgeable guide who has studied the film from a historic point of view.

Who the hell wants to watch a film with a talking know-it-all anyways, which means I'm usually left to my own sense of history to catch the cultural references.

This also applies to film techniques or special effects. To us, a person driving a fake car in front of a movie screen is a hokey technique, but may have been revolutionary at the time. I don't want to have to research my movies to see how groundbreaking they were, sort of ruins the fun.

However, I know doing so will build strong bones and bigger muscles, so I force myself to watch classics to see what all of the fuss is about. North By Northwest is worth seeing and more enjoyable then a lot of modern movies, but that's not really saying much.

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