Monday, October 20, 2014

Rebecca (1940) - 8 stars out of 10

Rebecca (1940) - 8 stars out of 10

“Rebecca” is a guidebook to the power of suggestion.  As the story progresses, Alfred Hitchcock paints a vivid portrait of Rebecca, the titular character who we never even see.  She is absent from the film due to her death prior to the beginning of the story, but her presence is very real.  We continually learn about Rebecca through her widower, Maxim de Winter, as he brings home a new wife and the memory of Rebecca creates an unwelcoming atmosphere.  The film contains a twisted love triangle in a husband-loves-new wife-and-loves-dead ex-wife sort of way.  One of the most fascinating things about this story is that we never learn the name of Maxim’s new wife.  She is the main character, and yet the audience knows Rebecca’s name instead of the new Mrs. De Winter.  Hitch enhances Rebecca’s presence by de-emphasizing [anonymous].  As if this isn’t clever enough, this film has a twist that really turns the entire film on its head.  I can’t place this film ahead of “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “Dial M For Murder,” and many other Hitchcock classics, but is still a masterpiece.  The first 45 minutes of the film move pretty slow but is redeemed by the acting of Florence Bates.  She is hysterical as Mrs. Van Hopper and may even be my favorite character in this story.  Judith Anderson also offers an incredible performance as Mrs. Danvers but you have to watch the film to see why.  The real driving force of this classic comes from the shock that you will experience from the twist and the chemistry between Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, as well as Fontaine’s increasingly fragile disposition.  “Rebecca” was Hitchcock’s only Oscar-winner for Best Picture Oscar-winner and, while it isn’t his finest, it is a must-see.

[Pictured: Fontaine and Olivier are great together, but you'll never see Rebecca...]

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