The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

As Hitchcock said in the Truffaut interview, this was certainly done by a professional. The clarity of storytelling, the lighting, the production design, the characters, the editing—all improved. I'll make an exception to Peter Lorre, who made a better villain. Although it is almost better this way, because the story is plussed by having the villains have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. McKenna (Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day) in the beginning of the film. Somehow I didn't see it coming—using Mrs. McKenna's fame as a device to strike up the conversation was so natural, in addition to the two couples being the only white people in the area at the time. Maybe all the silly conversation about the foreign food makes better sense now, because they have nothing to talk about. Mr. and Mrs. Drayton (Bernard Miles and Brenda de Banzie) don't want the McKennas to know about them at all. We know this is done on purpose because Mrs. McKenna was previously suspicious that Louis (Daniel Gélin) asked Mr. McKenna many questions and yet revealed no information about himself.


Loved the Que Sera bit in the beginning. Though bringing it back at the end ironically ruined it for me. The charm came from Doris Day and Hank (Christopher Olsen), who didn't even look like they were acting and therefore it wasn't part of the story. When the call back happened, it made the purpose less about having fun and more about the story. I liked how they didn't seem controlled, but in fact they were. This I realize is why I like Godard so much— a lot of what we watch isn't serving a greater story purpose, it's free from trying to be anything more than a fun scene. Come to think of it, the call back at the end is the only thing that I was bothered by, but that scene also existed to show the mother-son relationship. That was successful. It works when the purpose is to develop a relationship, which makes sense because that's what we do in real life.


Other likes: the OTS shot of Louis with the knife in his back as he walks into the crowded square. Mr. and Mrs. McKenna's friends who think they are coming to have fun but end up just sitting there. In the scene where Mr. McKenna tells his wife that their son is taken, initially he tells her to take a pill to relax and we are confused with her. Then we figure out he planned it to kick in once she found out about Hank.


There was a dolly adjust for one of McKenna's friends who sits down. It was silky smooth and caught my attention. The production design was a great precursor to Vertigo. Vertigo still surpasses this because of the meaning behind the color. The most meaning we get out of the color in this film is based around mood. Which is good, but Vertigo takes it to another level. The last story device I enjoyed was the idea that there's Mr. McKenna's passed out body in the chapel and we intercut to the cops outside talking about how they can't go in and nothing is wrong. Then even the way McKenna gets out of the chapel is great and fulfills another purpose of drawing attention to the chapel, which unfortunately didn't go anywhere. I still had the old version in mind where they have the shoot out, the ending of which I think I enjoyed a little more. Although like I said earlier, Peter Lorre made that picture what it is, and it's possible a shootout in this film, besides not meshing with the storyline, wouldn't have been as successful without the great villain character. It's important to prioritize, and this version proves to be more professional because it doesn't rely on the villain.



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