that’s pretty much what I was thinking

Film Under Capricorn is a mess. Some French critics (Trauffaut included) thought it to be Hitchcock's masterpiece and there has been some recent critical re-evaluation in relation to his use of long takes and how they express the inner life of the characters with their own spaces (wiki) which is all fine, but it's the first film since Jamaica Inn that I’ve simply wanted to give up mid-stream, uninterested in the characters, the story and impatient about the rotten, slow pacing. If I’m spotting a pattern in Hitch’s career, it’s that when he strays away from something with an overtly suspenseful scenario, he doesn’t seem to know what to do with the material. Much like Rope he uses ten minute takes, except here they feel like ten minutes because they simply don’t suite the domestic love triangle playing out before us. If he was trying to make us desperate for a cutaway but wanting to keep us painfully within the room, he succeeded.

Still, there is some curiosity value in seeing the subject of the formation of Australia turned into a film just over a hundred years after the original events in 1831, and how convicts were essentially being used a slave labour. These people lived in relatively isolation, ships taking months to travel too and from the motherland which is difficult for us modern apes to conceive of at a time when geopolitical information bounces around the planet instantly, and a quick glance at Google News can tell us the hot story in the Antipodean parliament. They wouldn’t have known that Darwin was heading in their direction on the historic cruise that would lead to his theory of Evolution, the Battle of Ostrołęka was happening in Poland and Victor Hugo was publishing The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They might have noticed The Sydney Morning Herald being founded. None of which has anything to do with the film, but that’s pretty much what I was thinking about as Ingrid Bergman went into another one of her alcohol induced fits.

As ever, Hitch knew when he’d produced a clunker and said as much again to a disappointed Truffaut in those interviews. He was apparently riding on a career high and had in his mind the moment when he and Bergman, who was the one who really wanted to do the picture, stepped onto the tarmac at Heathrow into the awaiting photographers, the most famous director in the world and the most famous actress. He’s sheepish about his own vanity and acknowledges that it had a knock on effect on the final product which was begun without a completed script which had elements he wasn’t sure how he was going to deal with them – which was risky considering it was a self-produced independent picture. The film sank at the box office and was repossessed by the banks leading to it being unseen for many years.

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