Sunday, November 20, 2005

Strangers on a Train (1951)

One of Hitchcock's most involving films, and definitely his most satisfying attempt at black comedy. More than just being a perverse black joke, it delights in its own perversity (example: Hitchcock casts his own daughter in a supporting role, then lets her say all the nasty, rude things that the more proper characters are only allowed to think). The confidence of Hitchcock's mise-en-scene here is undeniable, as one unforgettable shot after another cascades from the screen like it was the easiest thing in the world. (Murder shown as reflection in a pair of eyeglasses, thus both emphasizing Robert Walker's emotional detachment from the task and implicating the viewer in cruel voyeurism ten years before Peeping Tom? Why not?) While ol' Alfred was never lumped into the film-noir category, the light-and-shadow play here positively screams "NOIR ME, BABY!" I could nitpick about Farley Granger's character being too passive, but then I think that kind of figures into the diseased subtext of the film (Walker being, essentially, the catalyst for Granger's evolution into A Man of Action), which may be the biggest joke of all -- Walker, after all, was only trying to help and get help from a man he considered a friend. Wow.

Grade: A


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