Sunday, March 26, 2017
Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
*Hitchcock's American stay was much criticized in Britain, although he didn't become a citizen of the United States until 1955. His absence from Britain, especially during the war, may be one reason why, even though he retained dual citizenship, he was not knighted by Queen Elizabeth II until the year of his death, 1980. In 1943 and early 1944, partly in response to the criticism, he went to Britain to make two short propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information. Both of them, Aventure Malgache and Bon Voyage, were in French and were designed to be shown to the Free French forces as morale boosters for the Resistance, although whether they were actually released as such is unclear. After the war they disappeared into the British National Archives and were not rediscovered until the 1990s, when Hitchcock scholars retrieved them for public showing and video release. The story of Aventure Malgache is framed by a group of actors putting on their makeup. One of them remarks on how much another of the group resembles a Vichy official he knew when he was in the Resistance on Madagascar. The official had the actor imprisoned, but after the Vichy government was ousted by the Battle of Madagascar in 1942, the official hid his portrait of Pétain, hung a portrait of Queen Victoria, and stuck his bottle of Vichy water in a cabinet -- perhaps an echo of Claude Rains's dropping the Vichy bottle in a wastebasket in Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942). Bon Voyage is a more complex narrative about an RAF pilot who is shot down in France and is aided in his return to Britain by the Resistance -- or so he thinks. When he reaches London he learns that the supposed Resistance man was actually a German counter-spy using him to unmask real members of the Resistance. Neither film is first-rate, though both, especially the unreliable narrative of Bon Voyage, show the sure-handedness of an experienced director.