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North by Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason.
US, 1959, 35mm, color, 136 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

North by Northwest was Hitchcock’s self-conscious attempt at outdoing his previous chase films, “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures” in the words of screenwriter Ernest Lehman. It is also one of his most pointedly American films, surveying the country’s monumental landscapes and gleaming surfaces, not least that of the Madison Avenue man. Mistaken as a nonexistent spy with the suggestive middle initial “O,” the man is quintessential Cary Grant. Certainly one of Hitchcock’s most beautifully constructed entertainments, North by Northwest splits the difference between mass entertainment and pop art. At the center of it all is the crop duster sequence, itself a monument of film history and perhaps Hitchcock’s single most audaciously conceived montage. “The fact is,” Hitchcock told Truffaut when pressed on the existential dimensions of the scene, “I practice absurdity quite religiously!”

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The Complete Alfred Hitchcock

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Serge Daney:
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