North by Northwest
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To follow up his dark and brooding ‘Vertigo’ (1958), Alfred Hitchcock delivered the rather more lighthearted ‘North by Northwest’, a romantic thriller centred on a case of mistaken identity. The film provides plenty of room for Cary Grant to showcase his particular brand of comic debonair as he suavely sidesteps one life-threatening situation after the next, all the while smitten by a smouldering Eva Marie Saint.
Featuring some of the most iconic sequences in Hitchcock’s œuvre – the crop-duster and Mount Rushmore scenes are surely as well known as the celebrated shower sequence from ‘Psycho’ (1960) – in many ways ‘North by Northwest’ is the master of suspense at his very best. Employing his classic strategies – clever comic timing, disorienting camera angles, point-of-view shots and the all-important MacGuffin, to name a few – the director ratchets up the tension until viewers are positively twisting in their seats.
Bernard Herrmann’s score contributes to the film’s tense mood – setting the tone or punctuating significant moments, but never obscuring narrative or highlighting drama unnecessarily. Herrmann and Hitchcock worked together on nine projects, resulting in some of the most important films of the 20th century. Theirs was one of the great cinematic collaborations, and ‘North by Northwest’ is an excellent example of their almost symbiotic artistry.