And I didn't think it could get better than Rear Window. Eagle Eye--I mean, North by Northwest tells us the story of Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), an advertising executive who gets mistaken for an undercover CIA agent by Philip Vandamm (James Mason), a foreign spy. Roger is thrust into a series of events that eventually makes him a very wanted individual by the authorities, so he has to stay on the run. He eventually meets up with Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a young woman who seems to want to help. But nothing is as it seems, and Roger faces twists and turns trying to figure out just what is going on and how he can get out of it.
Whereas almost every other Hitchcock film I've seen this month has had a long build-up to the suspense, this one hits you about 6 minutes into the movie. It really takes only the required time to set up the lead character before shoving him into this mess. And from that point on, it never slows down or holds back. While the movie is over 2 hours long, I didn't think there were any major pacing problems. I did wonder a couple times where the film was going to go now that it seemed it was almost over ("There's still an hour left? It feels like we're almost to the climax!" "There's still 30 minutes left? Aren't we at the climax?"). I guess in a sense this could be seen as a good thing, considering the entire last half of the movie felt like one long climax/suspense scene that just kept throwing more twists at you just when you thought you were almost there.
I thought the writing in Rope was top notch, but this one takes the cake. While the story at times feels almost too complex (I actually got lost a couple times), the characters are just so great that it keeps you involved. Cary Grant plays such a smart-ass, which is a refreshing change of pace. He wasn't over-dramatic or anything like that. It's like he took everything going on with a grain of salt and reacted. Then we have Eva Marie Saint, who plays such a fine Femme Fatale that I could never keep a handle on whether she was a good guy or not.
I think what I enjoyed most about this film is that while there is a lot of suspense, it has a ton of humor. And I don't mean just dark humor like Hitchcock has given in previous films I've watched--but sarcasm and witty dialogue. And boy was I surprised at the amount of sex talk allusions in this film, particularly the scenes on the train. For 1959, this was probably pretty dang close to scandalous the lengths Hitchcock went with it. There's a whole discussion full of innuendo about them going back to have sex all night, despite the fact they just met.
The music was also pretty good. It had a much more modern feel. Older films tend to have a grander sound to their soundtracks, sometimes overwhelming the scenes. I'm not a music or soundtrack aficionado, so I can't tell you what it was... it just feels like this particular soundtrack was at a turning point in film.
And I kind of had that feeling about the film as a whole. Of all the Hitchcock films I've watched this month, this one felt the most 'modern', I suppose. The only thing about it that felt old school was the kissing scenes. Besides that, it didn't really feel dated at all. Now, almost every month, there's generally at least 1 movie I watch that I'm tempted to go out and buy after viewing it (but I never do). There have been 3 this month (this, Rear Window, and Rope), but for the first time I'm considering going and actually buying this film. I could definitely see myself getting in the mood for this one and just popping it in for the fun of it.
That being said, this nudges out Rear Window as my favorite Hitchcock, despite its sometimes confusing plot (I'll need to rewatch it to catch a few things). And this actually means a lot considering this is the one I was most looking forward to watching, so my expectations were already pretty high (and that typically doesn't end well when that happens during this project). Instead of just rambling on, I guess I'll leave it at that, since I honestly don't have anything profound to say--oh, except that I started picking up on the number 13 in this film. I don't know if it was on purpose, but all the numbers (room numbers and whatnot) given in this film seem to add up to 13. And I caught the Hitchcock cameo for the second time this month. Anyway... that's it.