Sunday, January 25, 2009


Today I saw Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.

I feel incredibly privileged that my first viewing of this (today) was on the big screen—70 mm no less, as part of the Seattle Cinerama's special series.

What a stunning film! From the opening scene that leaves its main character hanging over tall buildings to the sloped streets of San Francisco, this has to be one of the most beautifully shot films ever made.

The story begins with Scottie (Stewart) fretting over his case of vertigo with Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), an artist who is clearly in love with him. But he isn't in love with her—at least not anymore—he's interested instead in the "ghost" of Madeline (Novak) a woman he (for lack of a better term) stalks and eventually rescues from the cold San Francisco Bay.

The plot thickens as Scottie finds himself immersed in a murder he's soon accused of, but nothing seems to bother him as much as his broken heart and longing for Madeline.

There is sympathy due not only for Scottie's genuine lost love, but also for his desperation. And Scottie is not the only one to be sad for—all of the women in the film deserve a bit of pity for their trouble, whether it be pining for a man in love with someone else, or being a pawn in an elaborate illegal and immoral scheme.

The way Hitchcock shoots Scottie's pursuit of these women makes the viewer feel as if they are the voyeur—peeking behind a sacred curtain of action the rest of the world is not privy to.

The colors come through almost magically; a calming mix of greens and blues, punctuated only by the leading lady's red lipstick. The lighting, of course: genius.

There is an especially amazing scene toward the end, where Scottie's woman is emerging from the bathroom to greet him looking a certain way. She opens the door and we see what looks like a thick San Francisco fog clouding her silhouette moving toward his reacting face. The viewer sees her as he sees her—mystical and majestic—until her presence comes into full light.

This is a film to be savored on a giant screen, in the dark, with a full audience reacting to its every hue.

I'm so glad that's how I experienced it.

1 comment:

comay said...

I've always thought Vertigo was one of Hitchcock's best films - there is this gothic aura to the film. Part of it I think has to do with the setting in the San Francisco area but more so the location shots of the cemetary and the bell tower at the mission. It seems almost film noir to me. And though Jimmy Stewart is known for using his facial expressions to tell a thousand words, I think in Vertigo he really outdoes himself in his portrait of the obessed (former) policeman.

Of course, Kim Novak is beautiful but I was really blown away by Bel Geddes and her unrequited love for Stewart's character. She too showed so much heart and eventually pain to see him going through his turmoil.

Glad you got to see the film in 70mm!