Sunday, March 6, 2011

Links: Vertigo

Back in 1958, the anonymous Time magazine reviewer captured the general sense of critical dismissal both Vertigo and its director, Alfred Hitchcock received at the time with this review, second-billed to an Alan Ladd-Olivia de Havilland Western:

"Hollywood's best-known butterball, Alfred Hitchcock, has been spread pretty thin in recent years. The old master, now a slave to television, has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares."

Dave Kehr, on the other hand, gets it right in his capsule for the Chicago Reader, where he, as usual, packs enough ideas into a few short sentences to inspire a short book or two:

"One of the landmarks—not merely of the movies, but of 20th-century art. . . . The famous motif of the fall is presented in horizontal rather than vertical space, so that it becomes not a satanic fall from grace, but a modernist fall into the image, into the artwork—a total absorption of the creator by his creation, which in the end is shown as synonymous with death. But a thematic analysis can only scratch the surface of this extraordinarily dense and commanding film, perhaps the most intensely personal movie to emerge from the Hollywood cinema."

One of my favorite critics, Noel Vera, takes a long, spoiler-filled look at storytelling in Vertigo at his website, A Critic After Dark:

"Vertigo stands as testament to how far we will go, what lengths we will pursue, how close to the borderline of madness we will hew (and how far beyond that line we will, on occasion, venture), to indulge our thirst for whatever makes us feel alive. It's testament in particular to our need to know What Happens Next--even what happens in a narrative Hitchcock oh so carefully and perversely ends just moments (seconds?) before its proper resolution. Like many a great story, it leaves us in the same place it left Scottie--hanging on to a ditty in an endless loop, to a poem repeating itself over and over, to a story without real end or hope of any kind of resolution."

The Alfred Hitchcock wiki has 1000 Frames of Vertigo, as part of its 1000 Frames of Hitchcock project, which is exactly as cool as it sounds.

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