Topaz is Coming

…before the end of the day, I swear! Hitchcock’s most despised film, possibly. We shall be fair, but unmerciful.

11 Responses to “Topaz is Coming”

  1. …and one of the best

  2. One of the best despised films?

  3. david wingrove Says:

    Can it be worse than TORN CURTAIN?

  4. Sigh…seen apart from the context and the expectations people have of “a Hitchcock movie” it is a fascinating film. It’s far superior to most of today’s work anyway. I’d gladly take it over all of Michael Mann’s films for instance, or P.T. Anderson or Christopher Nolan, I can go on…

    Coming from two generations after Hitchcock’s death, I saw it with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece but the mise-en-scene and setpieces in the film and simply the fragmented rhythm of telling this story-telling across continents makes BABEL look like a blown-dry pinata and also it maintains a rhythm even if the plot only becomes clear by the last quarter. And also the cast, save for Frederick Stafford and Dany Robin, work wonders in their small roles – Piccoli is Piccoli, you accept it as a theorem in geometry, Noiret is amazingly edgy, John Vernon is really intense in this film, which is one of his best roles, Michel Subor(Le Petit Soldat himself) doesn’t have much to do, but I liked his charm as Claude Jade’s boyfriend, Jade as always is as cute as a button.

  5. I think that Michael Mann is one of the best Hollywood directors at work today. I think Heat was a great film. I’m also fond of Collateral.

  6. One of the best Hitchcock films, David.
    And “Torn curtain” is also a masterpiece, lesser than “Topaz” but still great.
    Let´s better despised Michael Mann who is so much overrated that makes me sick. Good filmmaker and nothing more.

  7. The bit with the window and the son-in-law in law is wonderful.

    The bit in Cuba… not not so wonderful.

    Really, it suffers from too much studio set work, not enough location shoots.

    But the colors still rock, like in Marnie.

  8. My polemic was more about how much I liked Topaz more than how much I disliked Michael Mann and others. I liked Thief, Manhunter and found his recent Public Enemies very interesting. On the whole he isn’t my type but I can understand why others might like him.

  9. —————-
    Really, it suffers from too much studio set work, not enough location shoots.

    Hitchcock hated shooting on location. That he did so in many of his films when he felt it’s need doesn’t change that. Topaz began shooting without a complete script(as did Notorious, Strangers on a Train and the second The Man Who Knew Too Much) and a lot was shot on location, except for the Cuban scenes, for well, obvious reasons(though Hitchcock had no compunctions of using Che and Fidel in newsreel cameos). One problem with the film is that it seems to be set in the “1960s” rather than a specific year and date although Che’s appearance in the newsreel places it in the early 60s. That might have been Hitchcock’s intention although it kind of runs against his interests in making what is his most topical film since the Second World War.

    For me the climactic part in France is the weakest, we are supposed to be worried about the marriage but we can’t really care, especially when he’s an adulterous *beep* anyway, so we can’t feel too bad if she is/is not carrying on with Michel Piccoli(after all he’s Piccoli!!!), it becomes interesting in the scenes around Noiret, between Noiret and Subor and Noiret and Piccoli.

  10. All interesting thoughts! My post is up now and we can continue there. Not being a fan of Babel or Michael Mann, I have no problem finding Topaz more interesting, but it does seem to fall short of its own intentions, and there may some confusion in the filmmaker about what exactly those intentions are.

    The period flavour is a big problem because the whole novel exists as a roman a clef about the Cuban missile crisis and authenticity is important to make it work. If a bold decision had been taken to completely ignore the historical background, maybe a better film could have been made, though. Hitchcock does seem trammelled by the demands of realism, and most alive when able to enter a heightened reality.

  11. Arthur S. says: “Claude Jade as always is as cute as a button” ;-)
    More about Claude Jade as Stafford’s anxious daughter we’ll see in some restored scenes for the director’s cut of “Topaz” in 1999, when she declares at her arrival at La Guardia Airport: “On, I love the cubans. They are so wild!”

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