When you come across a movie that is co-written by Alec Coppel, it is hard to not have a certain expectation from the film. Sure, he may have numerous writing credits, but the one that I feel most film enthusiasts will point out is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. While many hail Vertigo as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, it is widely considered one of the best films of all time. I somewhat disagree with this ranking; personally I’m more fond of Rear Window and Strangers on a Train, but I do respect the story of Vertigo, and of course its place in film history. At first glance Moment to Moment has all the earmarks of a Hitchcockian thriller, but what makes this film stand out is that it is foremost a romance that happens to have a thriller element, and it is because of that that director Mervyn LeRoy thrives with this film that is equally charming and thrilling to the very end.
The only major fault I find with this film is in the opening sequence. It is a beautiful crane shot that pushes into the window to reveal a man dead on the kitchen floor, and then the scene continues with the frantic Kay Stanton (Jean Seberg) emerging from her house calling out for help from her neighbor Daphne (Honor Blackman). While it sets a nice tone, I feel the film reveals too much too soon, even if we don’t know who the dead man is. This feels a bit jarring, because the next 45 minutes or so plays out as an illicit romance. The romance is between Kay and Mark (Sean Garrison), a Naval officer who is in port and intends to spend his weekend experiencing art and working on his painting, but instead he comes across Kay and is instantly smitten. As for Kay, she is the lonely housewife with her husband constantly out of town and giving lectures, and their housemaid is on vacation. It’s Kay’s neighbor Daphne who gives Kay the nudge to show Mark around the French Riviera and is somewhat her “bad angel” on her shoulder to have a little fun while the husband is away.
Though this is 1966, things are still relatively tame, and this relatively innocent fling Kay is having is mostly understandable. She has plenty of emotional conflict and is constantly making pleas to see her husband, but he continues to be too busy for her, and so Kay reluctantly allows herself to open up to Mark, since it seems he’ll be shipping off soon anyway. The chemistry between Seberg and Garrison comes across well, and though this is definitely a couple we can root for as an audience, we know it is destined to end in tragedy. It’s when Kay gives in to her lust that the film takes a shift in tone. She’s filled with regret, and Mark instead feels he’s in love and can’t live without her, and in the heat of the moment he finds a gun and is shot. In a panic Kay reaches out to Daphne, and they work together to get rid of the body and clean up the mess.
The last half of the film becomes a fun game of cat and mouse between Kay and Inspector DeFargo (Gregoire Aslan), who believes Kay is responsible for the murder but has very little evidence to go on. This wouldn’t be a proper thriller without some fun twists along the way, and as the story approaches its end there are some great little moments. This one will literally keep you on your toes till the final sequence, and it doesn’t disappoint.
This is the first time I’ve seen a film with Jean Seberg, and it is crime to read that she passed away so young. The other crime is that she never was in a film with Hitchcock; she seems like she would have been perfect for a number of his films. She’s beautiful and shows a lot of range with this character. Another standout in this film is Honor Blackman, who was one of the legendary Bond Girls, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Seberg and Blackman are fun to watch together, and it seems Blackman is having a blast in her role here. Lastly I have to mention the cinematography from Harry Stradling Sr. who has some impressive credits to his list like My Fair Lady and A Street Car Named Desire, but he also is responsible for some of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier work like Suspicion and Jamaica Inn, which certainly adds to the vibe this film has. The visuals on this film are beautiful and filled with color and vibrancy from the French Riviera. Sure, some of the sequences with rear projection are a bit obvious, but overall this film looks great. Kino did a great job with the remaster of this film. It’s one of those hidden gems that hopefully audiences will pick up and discover.