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#21 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:14 PM

This film doesn't hold a candle to Psycho. Sorry, it just doesn't.

PSYCHO has many great aspects, but it's fairly insubstantial. And at least VERTIGO doesn't end with a lame explanatory monologue.


The original ending may feature one obvious contrivance, but it's still pure brilliance.)

Can you please elaborate on this?

I refer to the shadowy nun whose sudden appearance leads to Judy's fall.

Edited by Ryan H., 24 March 2010 - 05:19 PM.


#22 Persona

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:56 PM

Btw, Ryan, I really liked the paragraphs you wrote up about your thoughts on Vertigo.

PSYCHO has many great aspects, but it's fairly insubstantial.

I wouldn't call any of the major Hitchcocks "insubstantial." One could even argue that the word "major" in my last sentence is misplaced -- I don't know that I've heard a discussion on Hitch about any "lesser" films he's made.

Psycho riveted the audience in its day a whole lot more than Vertigo did. Vertigo has only caught on in recent years, and a lot of its catching on has had to do with the restoration itself. The common audience connects with Psycho more deeply. Always has. (That's not to say that a "common audience" is better, or anything like that, it is simply worthy of note after the word "insubstantial.")

Psycho paved the way for an entire horror genre, one that was much more psychological, one that was able to draw from very real themes. It changed a genre of film for the better. Not only that, but the choice of shots, and the choice of black and white, and the cutting itself -- especially in the famous shower scene -- is every bit as stellar as the cinematography and directing of Vertigo. Plus, the love story there is not contrived. It might even be called "lust story" instead, but it's authentic in its relational depiction, and it isn't contrived.

Edited by Persona, 24 March 2010 - 05:58 PM.


#23 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 07:19 PM

Btw, Ryan, I really liked the paragraphs you wrote up about your thoughts on Vertigo.

Why thank you, sir. :)

PSYCHO has many great aspects, but it's fairly insubstantial.

I wouldn't call any of the major Hitchcocks "insubstantial."

Perhaps "insubstantial" is the wrong word. A better word would be "shallow." There's not too much going on in PSYCHO. It is, save the ending, a breathtakingly crafted thriller, but there's not a whole lot to chew on. For what it's worth, though, I deem it to be Hitch's second-best, sitting behind VERTIGO but standing proudly above everything else.

Plus, the love story there is not contrived. It might even be called "lust story" instead, but it's authentic in its relational depiction, and it isn't contrived.

Contrivance isn't necessarily a bad thing in my book. Great stories are often built upon contrivance; just take a look at the works of Shakespeare and the blatantly artificial and unnatural characters and circumstances therein. It's all in the execution, and I think Hitch casts the right people to make VERTIGO work.

VERTIGO has significantly more emotional and thematic resonance than PSYCHO. The latter may have oodles of suspense, but it's not intimately involving on a character level (well, it is until Marion Crane is killed off, but her sister, lover, and the detective are less than engaging figures; only Norman Bates remains consistently fascinating), or even on an intellectual one. VERTIGO may ask us to suspend disbelief to a greater degree than PSYCHO--despite some less than "realistic" psychology, PSYCHO does feel fairly chillingly believable on a level which VERTIGO does not--but that's not necessarily a strike against it. VERTIGO is not a realistic film, and it's not really trying to be one.

Edited by Ryan H., 24 March 2010 - 07:22 PM.


#24 Persona

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 08:31 PM

PSYCHO has many great aspects, but it's fairly insubstantial.

I wouldn't call any of the major Hitchcocks "insubstantial."

Perhaps "insubstantial" is the wrong word. A better word would be "shallow." There's not too much going on in PSYCHO. It is, save the ending, a breathtakingly crafted thriller, but there's not a whole lot to chew on. For what it's worth, though, I deem it to be Hitch's second-best, sitting behind VERTIGO but standing proudly above everything else.

I wrote earlier in the thread that I'll someday go through a Hitchcock phase. I don't know that I'm there yet, but I'm going to throw a couple in the queue for next month. Need to see both Psycho, which I believe is the best, and Rear Window, which I believe is second best, in the queue. (Right now, before watching any Hitchcock, I'd place Vertigo third on that list, but time will tell.)

VERTIGO has significantly more emotional and thematic resonance than PSYCHO. The latter may have oodles of suspense, but it's not intimately involving on a character level (well, it is until Marion Crane is killed off, but her sister, lover, and the detective are less than engaging figures; only Norman Bates remains consistently fascinating), or even on an intellectual one. VERTIGO may ask us to suspend disbelief to a greater degree than PSYCHO--despite some less than "realistic" psychology, PSYCHO does feel fairly chillingly believable on a level which VERTIGO does not--but that's not necessarily a strike against it. VERTIGO is not a realistic film, and it's not really trying to be one.

We're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one, because I find Marion Crane and Norman Bates fascinating through the entire film (well, like you said, only Norman makes it into the second half), but I lost interest in everyone half way through Vertigo.

It's still outstanding for its film technique alone. An absolutely amazing piece, especially for 1958, and I can't blame you at all for raving about it the way that you do. If I don't rave, it's only because I'm comparing Hitchcock to Hitchcock. All film aspires to the condition of Hitch, or something like that.

Edited by Persona, 24 March 2010 - 08:35 PM.


#25 Ryan H.

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:50 AM

Robert C. Cumbow has a new essay on VERTIGO: "Death and Detective: Vertigo Revisited."

#26 Overstreet

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 12:46 PM

FWIW, I had dinner with Cumbow the day he posted that article. He's a lot of fun to listen to. He's passionate about Hitchcock.

#27 Ryan H.

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 12:08 PM

FWIW, I had dinner with Cumbow the day he posted that article.

Neat!

#28 Ryan H.

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 11:29 AM

An overview of Saul Bass' poster designs for VERTIGO, which features some less-seen posters (the iconic image that has become associated with the film is only one of four designs Bass created).

#29 Tyler

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:21 PM

The AV Club visits Jimmy's Stewart's apartment in Vertigo.

#30 Persona

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:35 PM

The AV Club visits Jimmy's Stewart's apartment in Vertigo.

Oh, good reminder. In "The Fix," original air date 5/9/11, House breaks Wilson's framed-in-office Vertigo poster with his cane.

#31 Ryan H.

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 01:10 PM

Museum of the Modern Image starts up a three-part series of video essays on VERTIGO.

Part 1 explores some of the ground-level weirdness of the film’s construction, offers a suggestion that the film may exist in its own unique tense, and examines two iterations of the (Chris) Marker Hypothesis. Part 2 is spooky, reading the film through a phantom appendage then laying down a sort of Vertigo tarot before moving onto slightly more solid ground with a new consideration of Hitchcock’s concept of the MacGuffin. Part 3 takes the zoom-in-track-out as an emblem, reconsiders the issue of point of view, then throws all the pieces back up in the air. (Parts 2 and 3 will be posted in the coming months.)


Edited by Ryan H., 21 September 2011 - 01:39 PM.


#32 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 12:23 AM

Richard Brody defends his belief that Vertigo has a "happy ending":

As happy endings go, it’s an ironic one (and I’m surprised that my own shadow of irony went unnoticed), with its tragic contrast—one of an utterly classical pedigree—between the points of view of man and of God.

For Hitchcock, the merest stuff of existence brings inevitable punishment. To exist is to be punished, and, therefore, in God’s just universe, to be guilty—as in the movie that Hitchcock made just prior to “Vertigo,” “The Wrong Man,” in which the protagonist, though innocent of the crime of which he’s wrongly accused, is nonetheless guilty of something. . . .



#33 Ryan H.

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 07:43 AM

I watched VERTIGO in 35mm on Wednesday at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. Some brief thoughts:
  • Now that VERTIGO has been dubbed the "Greatest Film of All Time" (GFOAT) thanks to Sight & Sound (even though granting VERTIGO the title doesn't make sense in relation to Sight & Sound's voting methodology, which indicates that VERTIGO was most often voted-for as one of the ten greatest films of all time, not selected as the singular "greatest"), some critics are pretty cranky. Armond White and Owen Gleiberman contend that VERTIGO's top placement shows film culture is getting too insular, that VERTIGO is the choice of film critics too in love with deconstruction and that the critics have lost a sense of popular taste. In response, I would contend that many in the public saw CITIZEN KANE as a decidedly stodgy and dull choice for GFOAT status, that it sat as the GFOAT for so long because of and that whether VERTIGO's placement is deserved or undeserved, it is at the very least not stodgy, even if it will likely be a more divisive title-holder than KANE ever was.
  • The strongest criticism that can be made of VERTIGO is the one that Tom Shone makes, which is that VERTIGO does not reflect the super-neat story construction that Hitchcock is popularly known for, and that the film is all "loose ends and lopsided angles." I think VERTIGO's stylistic flourishes are dazzling and its narrative structure is quite bold, but it's true that there are some significant exposition dumps here, and that it doesn't hum as neatly as, say, REAR WINDOW.
  • Many have noted that Scottie starts out as movie-watcher and becomes a director. But our contemporary climate may offer a more precise analogy; Scottie starts off as a movie-watcher and then becomes a fanboy fan-film maker, desperately trying to recreate down to the smallest detail rather than to use it as inspiration toward something new.
  • Richard Brody's article, the one Peter linked to above, was a good one to read before watching the film again. I'd spent a lot of time thinking about VERTIGO, but had not spent much time thinking about how VERTIGO reflected Hitchcock's guilt-heavy sensibility. Curiously, Brody does not make a note that it is a nun who causes Judy to fall to her death in the finale, which seems to me to be a pretty key point here, given how many critics have tended to see remenants of Hitchock's Catholic education play out in his films and their preoccupation with guilt.
  • The one film in Hitchcock's filmography that seems to me to be a cousin to VERTIGO is MARNIE. I know many admire it--Brody placed it on his ballot for the Sight & Sound poll--but that film has never quite worked for me. For all their exaggerations, I get the characters in VERTIGO, I get their particularly hang-ups and obsessions. I've never been able to find an entryway into MARNIE. (My second-favorite Hitchcock film is actually STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and I'm not sure if that has any great commonality with VERTIGO.
  • I adore the way Herrmann's score played in this viewing. I've come more and more to think of him as the film's MVP, and it may be true that whether or not you "get" VERTIGO depends very much on the abilityThe speakers were not traditional movie theater speakers, so I'm not sure if it was just the set-up, but Herrmann's score became deliciously overwhelming in places. When paired with Saul Bass' title sequence or the famous dream sequence, I almost had a bit of vertigo myself.
  • The screening itself was a bit disappointing; I thought the projection was too dim. The scale provided by big-screen projection, though, cannot be matched.
  • The audience I was full of students, and they gave no perceptible sign of enjoyment or hatred. There were some old ladies, though, who absolutely adored it, and burst into applause as soon as the film concluded. My friend who tagged along was confused and thought VERTIGO was NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and so was expecting a very different kind of film than he ultimately saw. He left the screening with very mixed feelings, and was, I think, kinda skeeved out by the movie.

Edited by Ryan H., 10 August 2012 - 07:43 AM.


#34 kenmorefield

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:11 PM

Todd and I discuss the new GFOAT at The Thin Place Podcast:


SHOW NOTES:

  • 0:00 – Intro. The Sight & Sound poll and canon making.
  • 6:47 – Two views of lists: corporate wisdom and platonic ideals.
  • 12:26 – The function of criticism at the present time.
  • 18:13 – “I’ve seen Vertigo…” Great vs. The Greatest.
  • 22:21 – Can people change?
  • 27:51 – Obsession vs. Love
  • 31:55 – Melancholia and the spirit of the age.
  • 36:00 – Critics vs. directors; Vertigo vs. Kane.
  • 46:22 – Concluding remarks.


#35 Doug C

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 11:39 AM

  • The strongest criticism that can be made of VERTIGO is the one that Tom Shone makes, which is that VERTIGO does not reflect the super-neat story construction that Hitchcock is popularly known for, and that the film is all "loose ends and lopsided angles." I think VERTIGO's stylistic flourishes are dazzling and its narrative structure is quite bold, but it's true that there are some significant exposition dumps here, and that it doesn't hum as neatly as, say, REAR WINDOW.
  • I adore the way Herrmann's score played in this viewing. I've come more and more to think of him as the film's MVP...


Thanks for your thoughts, Ryan, I have a few comments.

Totally agreed on Herrmann. So many long stretches without dialogue, with only his score to pull us in. In terms of the score and theatrical experience, however, the "restoration" done in the 1990s of the film completely rerecorded and remixed Hitchcock's entire soundtrack according to "modern standards" so that it can sound swell in a theater; but it's important to note that only the original mono soundtrack is definitive.

As to the plot, Donald Spoto writes about the differences between the book and the movie, and points out that the forest sequence, the spiritual theme of "wandering," the crucial theme of Madeleine being an unrealized part of Judy, and the final return to the church tower and retributive fall are all Hitchcock additions. He points out that the story's structure is inherently vertiginous, set in "America's most vertical city," and is comprised of a stop-and-go, cyclic, hallucinatory dreamworld plot--not the kind of traditional, three-act structure we might be used to. (Visually, the camera movements in the first half of the film are right-to-left; camera movements in the latter half are left-to-right.)

"Were Hitchcock to have given us a straightforward account about a romance that ends tragically, that would indeed be a reinforcement rather than a condemnation of dangerous illusions. Here the love object is literally a fraud, and we're struck by the wasted energy spent in pursuit of what's neither attainable nor authentic."

#36 Ryan H.

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 04:32 PM

In terms of the score and theatrical experience, however, the "restoration" done in the 1990s of the film completely rerecorded and remixed Hitchcock's entire soundtrack according to "modern standards" so that it can sound swell in a theater; but it's important to note that only the original mono soundtrack is definitive.

Absolutely. I much prefer the mono soundtrack (which is available on one of the later DVD editions) to the restoration soundtrack (for one thing, the original sound effects are much, much better than the effects used on the restoration soundtrack), even if the restoration soundtrack did sound nice with the print I saw.

"Were Hitchcock to have given us a straightforward account about a romance that ends tragically, that would indeed be a reinforcement rather than a condemnation of dangerous illusions. Here the love object is literally a fraud, and we're struck by the wasted energy spent in pursuit of what's neither attainable nor authentic."

This is beautifully said.

Edited by Ryan H., 16 August 2012 - 04:32 PM.


#37 Ryan H.

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 10:04 PM

Chris Marker on VERTIGO:


"The entire second part of the film, on the other side of the mirror, is nothing but a mad, maniacal attempt to deny time, to recreate through trivial yet necessary signs (like the signs of a litur­gy: clothes, make-up, hair) the woman whose loss he has never been able to accept. His own feelings of responsibility and guilt for this loss are mere Christian Band-Aids dressing a metaphysical wound of much greater depth. Were one to quote the Scriptures, Corinthians I (an epistle one of Bergman’s characters uses to define love) would apply: ‘Death, where is your victory?’"



#38 Tyler

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 12:49 PM

Vertigo takes 3rd on an IMDB-editors list of the Most Romantic Movies of All Time.

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Edited by Tyler, 14 February 2013 - 12:49 PM.


#39 Andrew

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 04:23 PM

Well, it took me 4 viewings of this film over the past 20 years to finally admire and love this film.  I think I've always expected Vertigo to be more kinetic or playful, another North by Northwest, say, whilst failing to accept its more stately, contemplative pacing.  This time around though, I was smitten.

 

I couldn't help but think how much this tale must've jived with Hitchcock's Catholicism and sacramental view of marriage:  Scottie abandons the notion of a loving, well-adjusted partnership with Midge for an obsessional, adulterous relationship and pays quite dearly for it.  As pointed out in the Vertigo essay in The Hidden God anthology, the quick shot of the altar before Scottie turns his back on it and heads partway up the tower aptly reflects his spiritual state (and of course, the Freudians have their fun, too, with Scottie's inability to climb the tower on his first attempt, and his breathless, triumphal "I made it!  I made it!" on his second effort).

 

Otherwise, I'll just second all the good stuff that Ryan and others have already posted here.  Truffaut's book-length interview of Hitch was somewhat disappointing in its coverage of this film, though it was fun to absorb Hitch's clear pride and delight in his creation of the reverse dolly/forward zoom shot of the tower steps.


Edited by Andrew, 22 February 2014 - 06:45 PM.


#40 Mark R.Y.

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 06:12 PM

The haunting core of this movie is the realization that the "Madeline" that Scottie thought he knew and fell in love with never existed.  I see it as a depiction of how we often create a reality for people we know - even people we assume we know very well - without realizing we truly don't know the actual inner soul of that person.