North by NorthwestReviewed By Chef ADogg
Posted 12/03/99 14:50:52
It seems, to me, that there are no smooth characters in movies these days—we have come to the point where the suave character is parodied, as in "Austin Powers." 007 is no longer his lady-killing self—Pierce Brosnan, with all his after-shave commercial glory can’t even come close to matching Sean Connery, the real McCoy now stuck in dumbass action flicks like "The Rock."It’s nice to have movies about suave spies. A spy, of course, must always be suave—it’s a rule of spy fiction. Spies in their very essence are smooth beyond smooth; they’re not even human. They’re like good looking robots who get chicks and carry tin cigarette cases. It’s so absurd it’s appealing.
Cary Grant is the perfect spy. He is suave in just about every role; his suaveness is only intensified by spydom. He is at once serious and self-deprecating; he is aware of the fact that he is at once ridiculous and cool, and he mocks himself for it. He does not, however, give up his suaveness.
Al Hitchcock is the prime director for a spy flick. A genius behind the camera and a "master of suspense," he elevated spy flicks to an art form. Just think—he who can generate such terror and suspense on a thriller like "Psycho" directing a spy movie, wherein he can film more action sequences and stir black comedy into the mix.
And oh, how very black it is. Anyone who doubts can go watch the marvelous, hysterical "Frenzy," which has the same string of logic running throughout it as "North By Northwest." In each film a man has to clear his name after falsely being accused of a heinous crime. In "Frenzy," our hero was wrongfully identified as the Necktie Strangler.
In "NxNW" Grant is mistaken for a spy by some very dangerous men. One is Vandamn, a mysterious figure. He is looking for someone named Kaplan, and Grant fits the bill. So he sends out two henchmen to kidnap Grant. They then force-feed him an entire bottle of brandy, and then put him in his car.
They start the car and one of them guides it in the direction of a cliff—and you’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens. I can’t tell you what happens because each twist in the film brings a little tremor of joy. The movie is breathtaking and relentless. Hitchcock is at his best when he mixes the suspense with romance, and this is Hitchcock at his best.
The actors are all superb, and they live up to the great script by Ernest Lehman. He gives every character a plethora of witty asides and glib remarks, letting the characters do social dances around each other. Hitchcock lets the plot run and ups the froth quotient in the romance scenes; a Hitchcock relationship hasn’t been this delectable since Laurence Olivier swept Joan Fontaine off her feet in 1940’s "Rebecca."
The movie is often downright hilarious; Grant gets stuck in many funny situations, and then acts suave, making the situations even funnier. Man, suave spies are great. I really like more spies should be like Grant, even though, in the film, Grant is not a spy. It’s the movie’s best joke, and I’ll let you discover it for yourself."NxNW" is a flawless production. Every word of every sentence is delivered perfectly, and written perfectly, and every scene is shot exactly right. "North by Northwest" is a prime example of Alfred Hitchcock in full-tilt boogie; he really brings this one off in flying Technicolor (ha ha). A good example of a great film, "NxNW" deserves every drop of praise it has been given and will be given forever after today.
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