Alfred Hitchcock’s 50th film is a Cold War romantic-spy story inspired by a real incident; it aims at making the spy story more realistic (showing how difficult it’s to kill someone in its piece de resistance farm scene kitchen murder) rather than cartoonish like the popular but unbelievable James Bond thrillers. Torn Curtain turns out to be more about domestic trust than a tough Cold War yarn, which displeased many critics and the public as they both evidently expected more of a thriller with Bond-like touches of light comedy. It’s flawed by its plodding pace, its banal politics, Paul Newman’s wooden performance, its overlong 128-minute length, and too many rambling scenes that break down due to the director’s shoddy handling of details (something that’s an anathema to the usual Hitchcock concern about the finer points). Though only relegated to be a minor film in the master’s oeuvre, it still has his magical touches in a few splendidly chilling scenes and can be viewed as a vastly underrated work that holds up when viewed at the end of the Cold War for its sharply-observed humanitarian point of view (real people were murdered by spies, even those who were on the side of the so-called good guys were murderers, and did it not in a Hollywood septic way).
Paul Newman plays Michael Armstrong, a gifted American physicist engaged to his gritty science assistant Dr. Sarah Louise Sherman. While attending a science convention in Copenhagen, Denmark, Armstrong defects to East Berlin, claiming he’s disappointed Washington canceled his pet project on nuclear defense and hopes to work with the commies to develop a defense system to make nuclear war passé. Sarah, not knowing he’s playing a double-agent game to pump Eastern bloc scientist Professor Gustav Lindt for info on the missing piece of the puzzle to the nuclear problem he’s working on, surprises him by showing up in East Berlin and making it more difficult for him to operate. —Ozu’s World of Movie Reviews
Alfred Hitchcock has been the most well-known director to the general public since the 1940s – and he remains so in the 21st century, more than 25 years after his death. His name evokes instant expectations on the part of audiences around the world: of a memorable night of movie-watching highlighted by at least two or three great chills (and a few more good ones), some striking black comedy, and an eccentric characterization or two in virtually every one of the director’s movies across a half-century – and usually laced with a comical cameo appearance by the director himself.
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born into a devoutly Catholic family in London, and his religious upbringing – with its attendant issues of guilt – would have a powerful influence on the psychological underpinnings of his later work. He was trained at a technical school, and initially gravitated to movies through art courses and advertising. He studied the work of other filmmakers, most notably the German expressionists… read more
With special sections on Godard, Warhol and Hitchcock. Also: Happy Birthday, Anna Karina.