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To Catch A Thief [1955)

The first time I saw To Catch A Thief I was not overly impressed.  Seemed like simply a 106 minute postcard, but oh how wrong I was.  This is another Hitchcock masterpiece and, if not Vertigo-caliber, it should at least be considered in the same league as Alfred’s own excellent remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).

The whole gang’s here…  Cinematography by Robert Burks, editing by George Tomasini, music by…ok, not the whole gang…but most of them.

Grace Kelly is simply stunning.  When she first kisses Cary Grant, it is almost a heart-stopping moment–bursting with elegant sexuality.  Grant, for his part, was never better for Hitchcock (outside of North by Northwest).  And if the colors of mourning (to paraphrase Godard) made Notorious (1946) a less-than-vivid depiction of Rio de Janeiro, all sins are forgiven in this VistaVision take (breathtaking) on the French Riviera.  I can’t let those poseurs at Cannes have all the fun this week 🙂  I am home studying.  This is your dossier.  And there was only one film worth seeing this year anyway:  Adieu au langage.

Brigitte Auber gives a nice performance as the snotty enfant terrible and, though she herself is a pretty sight, Grace Kelly never looked better on film than in the “fireworks and diamonds” section of our film.  Indeed, Hitch knew the power of the Kuleshov effect as well as anyone and the cinematic intercutting of this scene places him with the greats of film editing like Eisenstein (though let’s not forget Tomasini…the credited editor).

Perhaps there is no stronger tie among Hitchcock films to la Nouvelle Vague than this panoramic view dans le Midi–especially to Truffaut (considering his book on Hitchcock…though it didn’t appear till 1967).  The fact that this film contains so much spoken French (sans subtitles) makes it unique in the director’s canon.  Grace Kelly herself would marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco not but eight months after the premiere and retire from filmmaking in her new role as the Monégasque Princess Grace.

Edith Head’s costumes were never more perfectly worn than by Miss Kelly (especially the white gown against her honeyed skin in the fireworks scene).

Most of all, this film should be considered among the essential Hitchcock along with the three perfect films (Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest) [not forgetting the parallel perfection of Psycho].  Most, if not all, the secrets of filmmaking are contained in the work of cinema’s Beethoven:  Alfred Hitchcock.

 

-PD

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