Saturday, January 17, 2009

Notable Notoriety

Makes me happy: Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film Notorious has just been re-released on DVD! This masterpiece had been out of print for probably 5 years, much to my consternation, because I love it so much that I think everyone should see it. Before, that was a much more difficult proposition than it should have been. Now, you have no excuse!

I'll admit that in our everything-available-on-demand culture, there is something tantalizing about waiting for a favorite out-of-print movie to be screened at a local arthouse--it makes the experience more precious and valuable. And this felt especially appropriate for Notorious, a movie all about longing and yearning and thwarted sexual tension. Needless to say, it also looks gorgeous on a big screen. (Most beautiful movie-star pairing ever? Perhaps.)

The last time I saw it was at a Hitchcock film festival when I was in Paris; that's where I snapped the photo above. Though I had a brief, wicked urge to emulate the little boy in Day for Night who breaks into his local cinema and steals the lobby cards of Citizen Kane.** I mean, isn't this vintage poster incredible? The French title Les Enchaînés means The Chained Ones--a phrase that captures the film's mood of romantic fatalism.

All the same, I'm glad it's no longer a rarity, and last weekend I bought the DVD half-price at Virgin Megastore. (They are having something called the "Virgin Sacrifice Sale," a name I find hilarious, disturbing, and sad all at once.)

Makes me less happy: Yesterday a biopic about the Notorious B.I.G. was released--also titled Notorious. All right, it's a logical title to use, but I just wish that the filmmakers had thought twice before appropriating the name of an acknowledged Hollywood classic! Somehow it annoys me that for most people of my generation, this film will be what they think of when they hear "Notorious the movie"--not Hitchcock's film. I worry that the 1946 film will get superseded in the popular imagination, in a way that it wouldn't if the makers of the new movie had just used a different title.

Though this could also lead to some humorous situations: now, if people overhear me talk about how much I love Notorious, they'll start to look at me strangely, thinking "Hmm, I'd never have guessed that Marissa was a fan of gangsta rap!"

**And of course the little boy in Day for Night grows up to be François Truffaut. And Truffaut loved Hitchcock, especially Notorious--he called it "the very quintessence of Hitchcock." See, it's all linked. A chain. Les Enchaînés!

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