Blog Directory CineVerse: An exercise in eye candy indulgence

An exercise in eye candy indulgence

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"To Catch a Thief" may not be among the pantheon of Hitchcock masterpieces, but it's still quite an entertaining romp filled with beautiful people and deliciously naughty dialogue for a mid 1950s flick. Here's what our CineVerse group concluded about this minor classic from the Master of Suspense:

·       It’s visually a very rich, colorful, sumptuous and attractive movie, filled with pretty faces, picturesque locales, elegant costumes, and decadent indulgences (food, jewelry, etc.), all showcased in Technicolor and widescreen Vista Vision—the latter was one of the newer widescreen formats introduced in the 1950s
·       It’s a very sexually playful film replete with double entendres, coded sexual symbolism in the visuals, and suggestive body language and expressions—perhaps the naughtiest Hitchcock ever got when it came to being sexually playful and suggestive.
o   Consider the scene where Grant asks Kelly “do you want a leg or a breast,” or when Kelly asks, “Tell me, how long has it been?” “Since what,” Grant replies. “Since you were in America last,” Kelly says.
o   There’s also the famous sequence where Kelly says “If you really want to see fireworks, it’s better with the lights off. I have a feeling that tonight you’re going to see one of the Riviera’s most fascinating sights. I’m talking about the fireworks, of course.” We then see them kiss as fireworks explode outside, insinuating a sexual climax between them.
o   There are ample references to “lumber” (a metaphor for male genitalia), “diamonds/necklaces” (metaphor for Francine’s breasts), and teasing sexual innuendos throughout. There’s even a hilarious shot where a crippled waiter sees Cary Grant and is (subconsciously) so awestruck by Grant’s attractiveness that he pops a champagne bottle cork and spills the contents, suggesting a climax—not just any male orgasm, but the power of Grant to even make an impotent (i.e., possessing a wooden leg) man climax!
o   This was regarded as a particularly troublesome movie by censors at the time, what with its metaphors for ménage a trios, multiple orgasms and suggestions of “unusual” sexual acts.
·       Arguably, this is lightweight Hitchcock, as, compared to so many of his other pictures, the tone here is much lighter, the plot is not as meaty or interesting, the macguffin Hitchcock employs here is simply the identity of the thief, and there really isn’t much suspense built beyond our waiting for the two protagonists to make whoopee with each other and relieve the romantic tension.
·       Film critic Peter Bradshaw remarked: “Hitchcock's superbly insouciant crime caper from 1955 must surely be one of the last movies in which the American super-rich are indulged so extravagantly and adoringly – the kind of people who stub their cigarettes out in fried eggs.” Likewise, reviewer David Krauss posited: “'To Catch a Thief' is the apex of style and personification of cinematic chic. Never before had a Hollywood movie showcased a European locale with such authenticity, and by thrusting us into the rarefied world of the ultra-rich, Hitchcock succeeds in presenting the ultimate escapist fantasy.”
·       Grant—as he is in “North by Northwest”, and as James Stewart is in “Rear Window” and “Vertigo”—is much older than his costar and her character, yet it’s fitting that the actor and character are this age, as Grant was considering retiring from acting at this time, but Hitchcock talked him out of it, and his character also is coming out of retirement.

·       It employs the theme of “the wrong man on the run,” an innocent man accused of a crime who is pursued by the police or other party.
·       Grace Kelly is the perfect embodiment of one of Hitchcock’s favorite tropes: the icy blonde who oozes elegance and sex appeal.
·       Film reviewer Alex Young wrote: “Hitchcock’s use of the camera continuously demonstrates how to create the atmosphere of a film by capturing sweeping landscapes without any jump cuts during action sequences. Each scene is very focused without using any fancy optical illusions while still creating mystifying metaphors that let the viewer’s imagination soar and allow each scene to flow into the next one very organically. These visual storytelling techniques are signature elements Hitchcock utilized throughout his body of work so the plot pieces itself together by while each member of the audience is unable to anticipate what will happen next.”

·       How human beings are innately attracted to risk and danger.
·       All people, in some capacity, are fakes and charlatans with duplicitous natures who wear masks to hide their true selves.

·       Jewel Thief (1967)
·       Tiger in the Smoke (1956)
·       The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

·       North by Northwest, Notorious, and Suspicion, also starring Cary Grant
·       Rear Window and Dial M for Murder, also starring Grace Kelly
·       Vertigo
·       Psycho
·       The Birds
·       Strangers on a Train
·       Shadow of a Doubt

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