a woman in need of a dangerous man

So, we continued our little unofficial Hitchcock class with a viewing of To Catch a Thief (1955). Lily’s first Hitchcock was Rear Window (1954), which we saw a couple of weeks ago, and she loved it, and had to the see the ending again immediately, and the special features. To Catch a Thief is not as good a film in my opinion, but we also loved it. The plot is somewhat interesting, but I find the film’s strength to be its wonderful visuals. Some of my favorite images from the film are as follows:

Compared to how Grace Kelly’s character was “introduced” in Rear Window, this is decidedly different. If one didn’t know better, it would be hard to know for sure that it was her.

This image also conveys less of the glamorous beauty one first gets of her in Rear Window and instead shows her as both sexy and mysterious. Her mysteriousness hides her, make her more impenetrable, and places her in the same visual context as some of the other characters from John Robie’s (Cary Grant) criminal past. In other words, we are not entirely sure who she is, maybe she is Grace Kelly but those glasses, etc., make it hard to know. Maybe she is another of those people who are looking for/searching for John Robie. Who knows. Her sexiness is also a kind of self-absorbed narcissism, played out more so later in the film, but here shown via her sun-worshiping attitude. She is not the soft, gentle, open, warm, beautiful Grace Kelly we saw in Rear Window. She is a distant, protected, maybe a little critical, and “boy” watching Grace Kelly here.

This shot seems very modern to me – like something one would expect from Soderbergh (of course instead of Grant it would be George Clooney).

But I also like it because it is so simple, a shot anyone of us could do really, and yet here it is in the midst of a star-vehicle Hitchcock film. There’s no fancy lighting, framing, certainly no effects – it’s just a straightforward shot, but there is something about it that is perfect. It also anticipates the kind of “out in the open” vulnerability Hitchcock would put Cary Grant in four years later, as Roger O. Thornhill in North by Northwest (1959), in the famous crop duster scene. Here nothing happens to him, though. Plus, I just love the image for its great colors and the fact that Hitch places Grant right in the center of the frame (compare with the off-center placing in image of Kelly above) which creates almost a snap-shot feel to it. If he would just turn towards the camera and smile then it could be a photo from our vacation.

And finally…

I just love this image — maybe the best of the film. It is from the scene when Frances tries to elicit a response from Robie in regards to the fabulous necklace she wears. She wants him to feel the pull of the diamonds because she believes that, as a former cat burglar, he cannot resist, but she also wants to be desired herself, maybe even ravaged. This is a very different Kelly character than the self-confident one in Rear Window. Here Kelly plays a desperate girl in search of a dangerous thrill. She plays a confident person on the outside, as though she is in control, but doesn’t realize that Robie is really the only one truly in control throughout the story. And of course Hitchcock hides Kelly’s face in shadows to emphasize the jewels — this screen grab doesn’t do justice to how they sparkle in the film. Could it be this hiding of the face makes the supposed desire of of the necklace concurrent with a desire for her body. In other words, both are presented as objects by the visual “decapitation.” If this is true, could it be that an undercurrent of the story is the overcoming of this base desire with a higher level of desire, a more romantic desire possibly, and maybe even higher still?

What makes the story interesting is that it is she who needs to change, who needs to learn her concepts of love for the thrill are not the same as genuine love. She needs a “dangerous” man, not so much to tame her as to draw out of her the authentic self she is seeking. We don’t see this kind of theme in films today as then, and for good reasons, but also Hitchcock, every being playful with his audience, never lets the film tie itself up so neatly, even though the plot gets wrapped up with a bow.

2 thoughts on “a woman in need of a dangerous man

  1. >Rear Window was my first Hitchcock film too, Tuck (I think it’s a good one with which to introduce people to him). I still remember the night my siblings and I watched it. Like Lily, we all loved it… though we were sweating bullets by the finale. As it turns out, I just viewed it again the other day and that moment when Raymond Burr turns to the camera still gives me goosebumps.To Catch a Thief is a good flick too. I saw it for the first time about a year ago and I really enjoyed it. Lots of fun.

  2. >This entry inspired Colin when I told him about it (he rarely reads blogs…or is on the internet at all for that matter or would comment himself) anyway, he is counting down the days until Indy is 6 and can watch Hitchcock along with many many other films he is just dying to introduce her to…he now has a running list! Glad Lily has you to learn the love of cinema from.

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