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
Runner up in the 2022 Sight & Sound poll of the Greatest Films of All Time (and #1 in 2012) this is Hitchcock's most personal and revealing film, a movie about male neurosis, fetishism and power, with James Stewart and Kim Novak.
Inspired by Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Claire Denis' transfixing Beau Travail is set in East Africa. Sgt Galoup (Denis Lavant) reflects on his time in the French Foreign Legion, and the impact of the handsome Sentain (Gregoire Colin).
Singin' in the Rain
The greatest movie musical ever made, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's sublime Hollywood on Hollywood satire is dynamic, romantic, and very funny, with some of the most memorable dance numbers ever shot - including, of course, the legendary title number.
Man with a Movie Camera
Bottomless invention and frenetic, dizzying montage make this city symphony one of cinema’s sharpest, most exciting experiences nearly a century after its release.
Ozu's most celebrated film follows an aging couple as they come to the city and make the rounds of their now grown children. Busy with their own lives, the children have little time for their parents, who are quickly packed off to hot springs in Osaka.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Based on Arthur C Clarke's short story The Sentinel, 2001 redefined the sci-fi genre. With its radical structure, scant dialogue and oblique narrative this was the first film to emulate the philosophical seriousness of writers like Clarke and Dick.
One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini's 8½ (Otto e mezzo) turns one man's artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema.
Brunette Rita (Laura Elena Harring) wanders Mulholland Drive, dazed and confused after an auto accident. She finds refuge with Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring blonde actress who has arrived from Deep River, Ontario, with her innocence intact.
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".