Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lazy Summer Flick: The Man Who Knew Too Much

In 1957, the famously catchy “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” won an Oscar for Best Original Song, appearing twice in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, The Man Who Knew Too Much. In the film, the McKenna family inadvertently finds themselves involved in plans to assassinate a European head of state while they are vacationing in Morocco. In order to prevent the McKennas (James Stewart and Doris Day) from interfering in the assassination attempt, kidnappers abduct their son (a young Christopher Olsen) in a bid to keep them quiet. The story escalates as the McKennas are led on a wild goose chase through Europe to find their son and prevent the assassination from occurring.

James Stewart and Doris Day are a delight to watch. Stewart, who plays a doctor, is once again solid as a stoic all-American do-gooder, but there is also a wonderful underlying tension of world-weariness and worry in some of his mannerisms. Day, for her part, gives an interesting performance. Suspicious from the very beginning of the movie, her character is immediately portrayed as the more alert in the marriage, and when she learns that her son has been abducted, her grief is so tangible that it almost suffocates the viewer. Also, as mentioned previously, Day sings her signature song, “Que Sera Sera,” twice in the film. I find it ironic that the message of the film’s theme song is to simply enjoy whatever the future brings, when every action taken by the McKennas is made in an effort to prevent the occurrence of pre-meditated events.

Stewart and Day’s relationship does seem a little archaic. While it is clear that Stewart’s character truly cares for his wife, the manner in which he speaks to her is condescending. Instead of acknowledging her opinion when she notices something suspicious, he initially brushes her comments aside as paranoia; when he discovers that their son has been kidnapped, Stewart gives his wife tranquilizers before revealing the news to her, as though she would not be able to contain herself. Particularly in the first half of the movie, there is a sense that Day does not have the same sensibilities or control over her emotions that her husband has. Despite the above criticism, The Man Who Knew Too Much is a thoroughly enjoyable film. An interesting fact: the climax of the movie takes place during a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, and throughout the entire 12-minute scene, not a single word of dialogue is spoken. The Man Who Knew Too Much is classic Hitchcock thriller, and the perfect film for a lazy summer day.

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