It’s pretty well-known among my friends and acquaintances that I’m a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, so assigning me a Hitchcock film I hadn’t seen was a kind of a gimme. This, I believe, was one of two American Hitchcock films I hadn’t seen (now the only remaining American one is The Paradine Case, but I have basically everything pre-1934 to catch up on). While I Confess isn’t usually considered top-drawer Hitchcock, I still expected to enjoy it, and I did.
Montgomery Clift is a priest who hears the confession of a murderer, but confession is sacred and even when he himself is implicated in the murder, he cannot reveal the truth to save himself. It’s not really a MacGuffin, but is pretty straightforward – Hitchcock is sincere here, which I enjoyed.
Clift is much more of a Method actor than Hitchcock usually cast, but his quiet intensity works for the taciturn priest who tries to protect those around him, including Anne Baxter, who had loved him before he became a priest and whose reputation is on the line – the murdered man had been blackmailing her over her relationship with Clift’s priest.
I will say that it takes a bit of the edge off when you realize that really, even if the priest did reveal the confession, it’s his word against the murderer’s – you could argue that people would be more likely to believe the priest, but if you believe a priest is capable of murder, you’re probably fairly willing to believe he’d lie to get away with it. So really, not giving up the murderer may not have been TOTALLY self-sacrificial, since he likely figured it wouldn’t have helped anyway. The way it actually plays out is more satisfying that I expected.
I always enjoy seeing Baxter, and Clift is swiftly moving up my list of classic actors to seek out more regularly, but I have to say, what really cemented this in my head as a Hitchcock film was the cinematography and camera work. Right from the very beginning, the compositions are striking, and there are several shadows-at-night shots that are breathtaking. Of course, Hitch could do stuff like this in his sleep, but he’s pulling from a very noirish tradition here stylistically, and that’s never a bad thing for me.
A safe recommendation perhaps, but a very welcome one, as I’ve been very eager to get to these last few Hitchcock films, and I appreciated the opportunity to knock this one off my list.
Stats and stuff…
directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by George Tabori and William Archibald
starring Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how I Confess entered my chart:
I Confess > Raging Bull
I Confess > Bound
I Confess < Magnolia
I Confess < The Matrix Reloaded
I Confess > Waitress
I Confess < Thirst
I Confess < Transamerica
I Confess > A Day at the Races
I Confess > The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I Confess < Standing in the Shadows of Motown
I Confess > Road to Morocco
Final ranking #780 out of 3677 films on my chart (79%)
It is now my #13 Alfred Hitchcock film, my #3 Montgomery Clift film, my #3 Anne Baxter film, my #2 Karl Malden film, my #43 Crime Drama, and my #14 film of 1953.
I Confess was recommended by David Anderson, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.
A few more screenshots…