Saturday, 22 August 2015

#25 North by Northwest

North by Northwest, number 5 in 15 films to see before you die. A tale in how to be man, by man.
Similar to The Usual Suspects, North by Northwest is a film whose techniques have become ingrained in cinema as is evident in the multitude of jet setting spirit sipping tuxedo clad male heroes we see in later "pale imitations". Therefore it's place in the top 50 list feels like a nod to it's film making influence, rather than because it's a good film (it's alright). How this can be anyone's favourite film is something I can't understand without having to imagine a horribly outdated heaving mess of a man, in a replica of that awful pant suit, and who actually believes women will do anything for a 50 year old ad man. For me anyway the film's place in the list is perhaps more likely a nod to an action appreciating male audience, since the film provides nothing of merit for a small quiet woman like myself.
Always dutiful to the resolution list I've been watching a lot of Mad men lately, and perhaps the only good thing I took from this film was how beautiful 1950s New York is shown to be in the small snippets at the start of the film. Paired with the beautiful colour pallets, immaculately dressed city folk, and occasionally quipy dialogue I felt like I was watching Mad Men, but unfortunately this was constantly interrupted by side stories of espionage - and extreme auctioning.
Cary Grant just being a man
The film itself is about Roger Thornville a 1950s ad man straight from Madison avenue, New York, who finds himself mistaken for the mysterious spy George Kaplan by a rival organisation. Set and released in the height of the cold war, the plot is disappointingly obscure but perhaps captures some of the confusion, mystery and even glamour of such stories in the period. Along the way Thornville finds himself entangled by the beautiful Eve Kendall, a natural Hitchcock femme fatale. From there we are taken from New York, to Chicago and finally to Mount Rushmore where the films iconic climbing scene is set.
North by Northwest is terribly stylish, much like the modernist architecture it cameo's and women it man handles, but sadly like the clean and stark architecture it resembles it misses the heart and messiness of real life which other mid century films like the Apartment manage to portray so well. Why another Hitcock film wasn't chosen, I don't know, but I'd recommend one of them anyway. Go and watch Rope, Rope's a nice film. Moments like the shot over the UN building, and Eve Kendall's (played by Eva Marie Saint) wardrobe (especially the orange coat set against the blue), and the most ethnically diverse shot in 1950s cinema ever, had me caught up in something good, but these were offset by Eve Kendall's ability to easily fall in love with stupid ad men, Eve Kendell's inability to do anything without it being undermined and the awful, awful, bravado and heroism of the biggest non-person since Bond himself; Roger Thornville. Thank goodness I watched the Apartment after this.
Something to fall in love with

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