Reviled by many in 1958 – “Another Hitchcock-and-bull story,” complained Time – Vertigo was named the Greatest Film Ever Made in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, and only dropped one place this time around. (Citizen Kane came in #3.)
Dream-like and deceptive, this is a movie you have to watch at least twice, once from the man’s point of view, and once from the woman’s. But no matter how aware you are of the revelation to come, there’s no escaping the supernatural aura which envelopes the first fateful hour as Scotty (James Stewart) is hired to follow the beautiful Madeleine (Kim Novak), who believes herself to be (a) reincarnated and (b) doomed to an early grave. In a way, she’s right on both counts.
A sick romance (as thrillers often are), Vertigo becomes more profoundly pessimistic the better you know it. Scotty is doomed to repeat his mistakes. Love cannot prevail over death – in this film, the two are practically inseparable. Like the vertiginous zoom shot he devised, Hitch was repelled by what attracted him, and vice versa. Thus Vertigo becomes a film about the male neurosis, fetishism and power; a film about Alfred Hitchcock.
Sunday’s screening in our PANTHEON series will feature free refreshments and a short introduction by William Brown, Assistant Professor of Film, University of British Columbia.
James Stewart, Kim Novak
Sight & Sound: Greatest Film of All Time Poll Runner Up
Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor
Also in This Series
In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-wai's most popular film is a love story about two neighbours (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who are drawn together by the long absences of their respective spouses.
In Abbas Kiarostami's self-reflexive non-fiction narrative feature, Sabzian, an illiterate film buff who passed himself off as the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf plays himself in reconstructions of his fraud.
Orson Welles's debut was the most sophisticated movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system to that time, and opened up the creative possibilities of the narrative feature film for generations. For nearly 50 years it was "the best ever made".