Marnie ★★★½


Occupies a spot almost precisely halfway between the warped glory of Vertigo and the leaden idiocy of Spellbound. I know some folks argue that we're supposed to embrace the latter in this instance, viewing Marnie's repressed trauma as a correlative to (e.g.) the Expressionistic matte painting at the end of her childhood street, but one of my many failings is an inability to take seriously any psychological case study rooted entirely in a single slice of backstory that Explains Everything. (As a counterexample, think of how the final scene of Exotica complicates that template. Or, hell, think of Vertigo itself, which gives you the traumatic incident right up front and doesn't pretend it has any bearing on Scottie's mania.) Both scenes involving Marnie's mother make me cringe, start to finish, and it's a testament to how skillfully Hitchcock orchestrates everything in between, and to Hedren and Connery's cagey performances, that the movie nonetheless fascinates and beguiles. Presumably entire dissertations have been written about the scene in which Mark finally "takes" Marnie, with its unsettling cut from Marnie falling back onto the pillow, glassy-eyed and limp, to a predatory close-up of Mark's face looming ever closer. Remove all reference to the night Bruce Dern came to town from this movie and it likely becomes an all-time favorite, arrestingly bizarre and endlessly interpretable. Though I confess I have no idea how this hypothetical version might end. Not in a way that would appeal to a mass audience, that's for damn sure.