The rating? Approved. Thanks, old timey England!
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
During the great month that was Alfred Hitchcock, I had the great pleasure to rewatch some of my favorite Hitchcocks. Because I'm kinda lame and vanilla, I'm a film snob who places Hitchcock at the top of my list of favorite directors. Hitchcock himself is great. I just wish I was the kind of guy who placed Ozu at the top of his pyramid. I'm not even a hipster. I'm a wannabe hipster.
The biggest hole in my Hitchcock love was The Paradine Case, which I now discovered is pronounced completely different from how I've been saying it for years. The placement of this movie on the great list of Hitchcock canon is disputable. I always regarded it as, "Hardcore Hitchcock fans should see it", but I'm not quite so sure that is true anymore. The movie surrounds Gregory Peck's Anthony Keane, a lawyer who delivers evidence in the same tone as Atticus Finch, but without the same moral fortitude pre-Go Set a Watchman. In many ways, the themes parallel more Woody Allen dramas than Hitchcock's, mainly because of the running motif of infidelity. Like apparently anyone who meet's Valli's Mrs. Paradine (more on Mrs. Paradine's casting later), Keane is instantly smitten with her and places his happy marriage on hold.
While infidelity is the centerpiece of this story, the only thing that really separates it from its contemporaries is the strength of the marriage he is in. Perhaps this is the era of women who keep their place. Maybe this is Hitchcock's and Selznick's idea of what a woman should be. It could even be something along the lines of something I can't possibly understand as a white male, seeing Ann Todd's Gay Keane make choices that I see as weak, but are strong in their silence. But Peck's character really has little reason to act as he does outside of his own male hormones and attraction to Mrs. Paradine.
And that's where the story begins to fall apart. Mrs. Paradine isn't that captivating. I can't blame new "Selznick Star" Valli for this. Just as a bit of background, Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo, but they couldn't get her for the movie so they tried creating their own Greta Garbo out of Italian newcomer Alida Valli. In an attempt to draw attention to the new actress, producer Selznick credited her simply as "Valli" in an amazing handwritten signature that looks completely bizarre. Watching Selzick's ego on screen might be one of my favorite things in the world and it might be epitomized in the opening credits to The Paradine Case. I can't wholly recommend this movie, but I would for someone to just watch the Selznick ego train pull into the station by watching just the opening credits.
Anyway, it's not really Valli's fault with her portrayal. She does a very solid job, considering that she was being groomed for something that she's not. It's just that the story doesn't give her much to relate to. Her character keeps everything secret. She acknowledges most of the time that she is a horrible human being. The big draw for the movie is meant to be not whether she is proven innocent or guilty, but whether she actually committed the crime in question, which I'll admit is actually a pretty cool idea. Sorry, Gone Girl. But again, her character is straight up unlikable. Maybe that is my problem with understanding justice. Justice is meant to be objective, regardless to whether or not the defendant is socially awkward or not. That might have made for a good theme, but alas, it doesn't happen here.
Law drama can go very bland. I think that's why I always avoided The Paradine Case. It always looked dull and I think I was right. But being a Hitchcock movie, there is some very cool stuff in a very dull movie. The interesting take on the rather dull concept was the relationship between the judge / lord presiding over the case and his contention with Keane. For a guy who was just accused of sexual assault, Hitchcock has quite a commentary on white males in power v. the role of the woman.
Which leaves me to my final look at the movie. The movie is very watchable. It's Hitchcock. I had a good time. As a whole, the movie is kind of a mess. I know that Selznick took over writing the script, but removed himself from the movie because he was doing a million other things. I also know that the film started shooting before the final script was in, which was probably considered sacrilege for Hitchcock, the master of pre-production. That's what was the problem with the film overall. There are cool moments and great performances. But there is little uniting the whole concept, which perhaps lowers The Paradine Case to movies like The Lodger.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.