Time to put the bottle down for a few moments and put on our critics hats again. Last November we unveiled #5 in our list of Top Five Wine Movies. On to #4...
As the case with selection #5, this is not a movie most people think of when they ponder great wine flicks. But since the action during one the most suspenseful moments in the film is set in a wine cellar, we had to include it. Long considered to be one of Hitchcock's greatest films, the 1946 Ingrid Bergman/Cary Grant post WWII set thriller has aged beautifully. We're not sure how one of the villain's 1934 bottles of wine would taste now, but in 2014 a slow-paced romantic thriller where the sexual tension is implied, not explicit, is most welcome.
Grant turns in a fairly uncharacteristic performance, but his humorless take on the American agent in charge of protecting the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer in Rio proved he was one of the finest actors of the classic era of Hollywood. If you're most familiar with Bergman in Casablanca, you will be surprised with her role as a wealthy, drunken, initially unappealing party girl. But with Grant in the picture, you know what will ultimately happen between these two. He may be stone-faced serious in this film, but he's still Cary Grant. Claude Rains plays the main villain of the piece, treading a fine line between despicable and somewhat sympathetic as his feelings for Bergman's Alicia are genuine.
The aforementioned wine cellar sequence makes this a great wine movie, although you don't see a bottle come out until 30 minutes into the story (Alicia's drink of choice is scotch and soda). Without giving too much away of the sequence, the wine bottle of interest contains something curious that is not exactly wine, and some have argued that it's the famous Hitchcock MacGuffin of the movie.
Notorious does not have the slick Hollywood gloss of Hitchcock's '50s classics, like Rear Window and Vertigo; being a product of RKO Studios, the Hollywood studio known more for its gritty film noirs than pure Hollywood color slickness, gives the film its edge. It is the quintessential Hitchcock thriller for a cold winter night. Pop a bottle of VAVINO (or Korbel), and enjoy.
Clip from Notorious:
And if you missed our #5 choice in our Top 5 Vino Movie list, click here for a recap.