Wednesday, October 13, 2010
An American physicist defects to East Germany, taking us back to Cold War days. The curtain in the movie's title refers to the Iron Curtain which fenced off the world of communism, a term with to the present generation is unlikely to mean much.
Hitchcock in his last phase seems to have lost his taste for the macabre and gruesome. He is done with the psychotic worlds of Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). With these two films (Marnie (1966) can also be included) he had exorcised his demons and was to provide us with entertainment of a more wholesome sort.
This is another espionage romance set in the beautiful environment of Copenhagen and Berlin. It is a delight to visit these places in the company of the Hitchcock camera, which lends beauty and life to everything. The movie is a feast for the eyes. One of the nicest sequences is a chase through a museum, and we travel over the marble floors with the figures in all those paintings watching the action in grim amusement. Of course everything is subordinate to the action of the narrative and beauty after all is best enjoyed when it passes by, rather than when one goes after it in a self conscious way. The romance of the physicist-lovers played by Julie Andrews and Paul Newman is the binding thread.
The film is over long and the pace of action and suspense cannot hold one's attention. Beyond a certain point the momentum of the urge to see it to the end and find out what happens and to tick off one more Hitchcock is what carries one through. We are glad when it is over. Hitchcock is there with his craftsmanship and talent but the inspiration is missing. Perhaps it is because I have just seen Topaz, a riveting movie of similar genre. This is not the best Hitchcock, but neither by any means it is the worst.