Alfred Hitchcock certainly has a large handful of renowned, revered films, but I have always considered “Rebecca,” his 1940 adaptation of the famed novel by Daphne Du Maurier, to be my favorite. This film, more than any other he made, showcases his variety of talents all at once — it is simultaneously a devastating thriller and an elegant romance. Also, I am a sucker for Joan Fontaine running around terrified in a large mansion while wearing immaculate gowns (and you should be too).
The story revolves around a nameless woman (played by the impeccable Fontaine) who falls in love with a charming, upper-class gentleman named Maxim de Winter (played by the also wonderful Laurence Olivier). After their quick marriage and relocation to Winter’s ominous estate, Manderley, Fontaine’s character discovers that the memory of her husband's deceased wife, Rebecca, remains to haunt her. For fans of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film “Phantom Thread,” Hitchcock’s film was a direct inspiration.
The Oscar-winning cinematography is astounding, creating the feeling of a gothic nightmare. Fontaine, for my money, is one of the finest actors in the history of American movies, and her performance in this film will, in the words of Spike Lee, make you want to “pray at bending knees to the church of cinema.”
While there are plenty of horror films and thrillers you can watch this Halloween month to gross you out or give you a quick jolt, there is something to be said about a film that truly gets under your skin. Without anything terribly supernatural or demonic, “Rebecca” manages to plunge its viewers into a beautiful world of discomfort and ambiguity.
Also, would anyone join a Joan Fontaine fan club if I started one? Anybody?
Reach writer Armon Mahdavi at email@example.com. Twitter: @armonmah
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