Edmonton Film Society: “Marnie”

On Monday night, I attended an Edmonton Film Society screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie with Dickson at the Royal Museum of Alberta (the movie passed through his precious litmus test of quality – the user-voted IMDB rating).

Dickson likes to poke fun at the average age of the audience by calling them the “sea of grey,” but personally, I think part of the fun of EFS events (as opposed to renting the classic films) is watching these movies with this particular generation. There is not a drop of pretentiousness in the room; every reaction is absolutely genuine. As demonstrated during a screening of To Catch a Thief last summer, from the laughs to the gasps to the applause at the end, I sometimes feel that this kind of collective viewing experience is what all theatres should offer. That said, the numbers were low yesterday (likely due to the chilly weather), so the room didn’t quite have the critical mass necessary for the desired aural effect.

The plot of Marnie is described perfectly on the EFS website: “a perverse romance between a beautiful, elegant thief [Tippi Hedren as Marnie] who’s blackmailed into marriage by one of her victims [Sean Connery as Mark Rutland].” Perverse indeed – I took offense with Mark’s machismo as he prayed on Marnie’s vulnerability, even to the point of rape. Connery played cocky well, but even Bond didn’t come off as anything but a controlling, manipulative terror.

Hedren was a great casting choice – not classically beautiful but attractive nonetheless, she had an unsettling aura about her that was perfect for the character. Edith Head’s signature gowns draped beautifully on her as well, though even the everyday clothes were lovely to look at – bold colors, high button collars and trapeze silhouettes.

As for the special effects and the score – they were both decidedly over-the-top. Marnie’s pulsating curtain of red visions became redundant over the course of the movie, reaching near-campy levels. The music was shrill, unnecessarily prominent, and by the end, unnervingly grating (the violins!). Perhaps that was the sound designer’s intent, but it took the focus away from the acting.

The ending was welcome, but probably not for the reason Hitchcock originally intended. Still, it was a fun night out, and beat watching a conventional movie at the local multiplex.

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