Monday, 28 January 2008

To Catch A Thief

To Catch A Thief
To Catch A Thief is in many ways a typical Alfred Hitchcock film, though it doesn't have the tension or cinematic sophistication of much of his other work. The sophistication on display here relates to the costumes and locations, rather than the camerawork or editing. The pace is extremely slow, with excessive establishing shots of scenery and grand buildings, and over-long helicopter shots and chase sequences.

Cary Grant, one of Hitchcock's favourite actors, plays John Robie, a cat burglar who has retired to the French coast. Grace Kelly, probably Hitchcock's favourite actress, plays Frances Stevens, who falls in love with him. Robie is that archetypal Hitchcock figure, the persecuted innocent: he gave up burglary years before, though he is framed for a spate of recent jewellery thefts. To prove his innocence, he must catch the real burglar himself. The final revelation of the burglar's identity is hardly a surprise, and the whole plot is rather flimsy.

There are some amusing double-entendres, including Kelly asking Grant if he wants "leg or breast" (she's talking about pieces of chicken). Apparently, these moments were improvised by Kelly and Grant. Interestingly, Grant's character explains that he travelled around Europe performing in a circus during his youth - which is exactly what Grant did in his own youth. Grant is always a superbly suave actor, though he was better in Hitchcock's North By Northwest and Notorious. In this film his skin is alarmingly dark; his tan actually makes it difficult to recognise his face in some scenes.

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