Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Confess (1953)

Hitchcock films are usually divided into two groups: the ones that are continually discussed, re-evaluated and shown to film students--the classics (Pyscho, North By Northwest, Rear Window, etc.) Then there are the little known ones, the ones that only cinephiles know about, the less cared for films (Under Capricorn, Jamaica Inn, Stage Fright, etc). Today's film is part of the latter group, and alas, there are good reasons why.
The premise is as follows: late one night, a church caretaker (O.E. Hasse) tells Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) that he is a murderer. Since he does so in a Confessional, the priest feels that he cannot tell others of what was told to him. Unfortunately for him, what evidence the cops have point to Logan as the prime suspect.

            This potentially interesting premise gets a mostly lackluster treatment. None of the performances are particularly memorable. Not Clift, who is given plenty of angst time, but not enough chance to really show or give voice to his inner conflicts. Anne Baxter, as Clift’s love interest from before he joined the cloth, cried plenty but only moved me to frustration: often I felt like yelling at the screen "I know that you love this guy, and you told the cops about it, so why are you so modest on the darn stand?!!" Even the murderer, played overly sinisterly by Hasse, who starts out as a tormented grey-scale character quickly changes to a two-dimensional villain.
            Oh, and don’t get me started on the score. With some exceptions (Strangers on a Train  and High Noon) I can’t stand Dimitri Tiomkin soundtracks. His music usually alternates between extreme bombasticness or incredible sentimentality. This film is no exeption, and continually hearing his music over the action (his allows few non-musical moments) is enough to lower my what little liking I have of the movie.
           Despite all that, however, there are things that I do enjoy about the movie. The camerawork and framing are often beautiful, showing off some very nice-on location scenes of Quebec. The contrasts between strong sunlight and shadows are stark, and add an extra level of seriousness that the rather thin script barely manages to convey.
            On the whole, I would only recommend this film to those who are die-hard Hitchcock fans, and those who are interested in Catholic-themed films. And even if you do fullfill those requirements, a warning: this is pretty slow going.

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