Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie of the Week - Rebecca

This week’s movie is Rebecca (1940).

The drama is about a young girl who meets a rich troubled widower in the south of France. They fall in love with each other and are married. But when he brings her back to his family home, she is haunted by his former wife’s memory and grip over the household. The film is a cinematic masterpiece with brilliant directing, performances and some of the best photography in film history. It is Alfred Hitchcock’s first film he made in America, working with producer David O. Selznick (though, while this was indeed his first film made in Hollywood, his first truly American film in feel is Shadow of a Doubt). The score by composer Franz Waxman is very good and moody, fitting the gothic themes at play visually and in the narrative. Art director Lyle R. Wheeler’s sets and design work are also wonderful and fitting. Everything is big, almost swallowing up Mrs. de Winter. However, cinematographer George Barnes (maybe the best D.P. of all-time) does the standout work of the picture. Joan Fontaine looks lovely in the film, while his use of shadows takes full advantage of the black-and-white format. From a cinematography standpoint, this is a masterwork (and he won the Best Cinematography Oscar for his work). Both stars Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are fantastic, and there is also excellent supporting work from George Sanders, C. Aubrey Smith and especially Judith Anderson. The film won the 1941 Oscar’s Best Picture (the only film directed by Hitchcock to win Best Picture). It is aesthetically one of the best examples of the wonderful work being done during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Hitchcock has a filmography that boasts many classics, but Rebecca is probably the best of his early career (and I also really like The 39 Steps, Notorious, Suspicion, and Shadow of a Doubt too). This is a must see for all cinema fans. Check out the trailer.

Available on Criterion Collection DVD, DVD and to Rent

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