Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Under Capricorn (1949)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

Yeah, I know she looks like the maidenhead of a boat, but give it a chance!

Genre: Period Drama (UK)

Starring: Ingrid Bergman (Viaggio in Italia; Spellbound), Joseph Cotten (The Third Man; Shadow Of A Doubt)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy; Family Plot)

Overview: A man trying to get a new start in the Australian colonies agrees to aid a landowner and his wife, who seems to teeter on the brink of madness.

Acting: "Ah shit, a period piece with all the grand outfits and hoity actors that I've grown to despise in melodramas of the 40s." - Squish's first thoughts. Twenty minutes in, I realized how quickly that opinion had faded with the talent hiding in those costumes. This could very well be one of Ingrid Bergman's best roles, including Notorious and Casablanca. I suspect Hitchcock had a lot to do with the casting of this one since all the major players were in other of his films. Hitchcock knows how to command proper raw emotion here. Yes indeed.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: I had issue with the 40s-manipulated outfits, painfully painted backdrop decors and the occasionally awkward lighting set up. What I loved were the grand halls, the little mood-enhancing accoutrements like the scene where the governor is washing up in the bathtub in his office, the pistols and the grand interiors. It seemed as though someone decided that certain parts of the film weren't worth the budget money they deserved. I'll give it this though: where the money WAS spent, it was spent rather well.
Rating: 8

Script: The role of Milly the head house-maid seemed all too blatantly abstract to me. You know those times when you watch a film and quickly chip away characters down to their symbolic representation... Well she seemed more like a catalyst for strife than anything else, but it didn't hurt that hers are the best lines in the whole film. Very reminiscent of Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers. Nicely told.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story is not for everyone, granted, but those of you who liked how Rebecca unfolded with appreciate the similarities. We have a woman with a haunted past, a mystery slowly unfolding, and a third wheel waffling between doing the right thing and being a tad selfish while cogs manipulate around the lot of them. This film had some nice surprises and some very worthy dramatic moments, and though not my typical type of film, I was pleased with the conclusion.
Rating: 8

Mood: The biggest issue I had with this film was Bergman's clearly un-Irish accent, and the year it was originally filmed in. I was constantly torn between being tainted by the melodrama of the 40s while being wowed by the attention to details and the deep-rooted themes of honour and chivalry. If this were to be properly made today, I'd predict that the grand chivalry would be considered quaint and tossed aside in favour of a more dramatic plot. After all is said and done, I wouldn't want to see that version, because the chivalry and the nobless, the gentlemen living on the cusp, choosing to honour their person rather than their community leaders, that's what this is about.
Rating: 8

"Oh it is to laugh, yes, YET another Hitchcockian Love Triangle. Oh isn't it drole?"

Overall Rating: 82% (A Nice Trip Down Under)

Aftertaste: The first mention I've ever heard of this film was when Filmbrain told me that this would be his piece for the upcoming Blog-O-Thon. Given his penchant for films that are actually good, I was really looking forward to this. I pride myself in learning about the obscure, especially when I'm told it's "criminally under-seen". Now I know why no one's seen it, and now I also know what makes that a crime.