Sunday, March 31, 2024

Seeing rainbows

About a favorite Hitchcock film that has current relevance:
A dictator begins a brutal conquest of Eastern Europe. His agents stage a covert campaign to manipulate the West into staying on the sidelines. Ghastly barbarism dominates the news. And yet many Americans are surprisingly apathetic to the rising crisis.

That may sound like geopolitics in 2024, but it also describes Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 spy thriller Foreign Correspondent. Starring Joel McCrea as journalist John Jones, it was just Hitchcock’s second Hollywood production after moving to the United States. Although it’s now one of the more neglected entries in the Hitchcock canon, the film is also an artful plea for Americans to recognize the calamity they faced in World War II. It was timely in 1940, and it remains full of enduring themes about the never-ending fight against tyranny.

Foreign Correspondent follows Jones on assignment to Europe in the opening days of the war, giving the audience a front-row seat to the breakdown of global order. ....

Jones himself encounters many dangers as the plot races by. Classic Hitchcockian action scenes include a chase through a sea of umbrellas, a tense sequence set in a Dutch windmill, and a nerve-wracking tussle atop Westminster Cathedral. Set pieces such as a plane crash in the Atlantic also give the audience a sense that Jones is racing against time. The director’s characteristic style and panache, even humor, delightfully permeate the movie. The action and glamour lend Jones’ quest for truth a real excitement.

Importantly, Hitchcock also introduces elements of genuine horror to disclose the true nature of the fascist threat. ....

Foreign Correspondent begins with an opening crawl dedicating the film to the reporters who told the truth about the crisis in Europe: “To those forthright ones who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows …” In our own time, we must sadly admit that many are still “seeing rainbows.” While the Ukrainian and Israeli peoples fight bravely against tyranny, and the Taiwanese prepare for a potential invasion, it is altogether too easy for Americans to see these events as distant or perhaps even irrelevant. .... (more, but there are spoilers)

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