Essays, Reviews, Commentary
“As must be evident by now, I am reluctant to stop writing about Vertigo because I might never again have an opportunity to review a film of equal stature.”
A free replay (notes on Vertigo)
by Chris Marker
“Obviously, this text is addressed to those who know Vertigo by heart. But do those who don’t deserve anything at all?”
Martin Scorsese:”Why Vertigo Is Truly Great”
Foreword to Dan Auiler’s Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic
It’s difficult to put into words exactly what Vertigo means to me as both a film lover and as a film-maker. As is the case with all great films, truly great films, no matter how much has been said and written about them, the dialogue about it will always continue. Because any film as great as Vertigo demands more than just a sense of admiration — it demands a personal response.
A good place to start is its complete singularity. Vertigo stands alone as a Hitchcock film, as a Hollywood film. In fact, it just stands alone — period. For such a personal work with such a uniquely disturbing vision of the world to come out of the studio system when it did was not just unusual — it was nearly unthinkable.
Vertigo was, and continues to be, a real example to me and to many of my contemporaries, in the sense that it demonstrates to us that it’s possible to function within a system and do work that’s deeply personal at the same time.
Vertigo is also important to me — essential would be more like it — because it has a hero driven purely by obsession. I’ve always been attracted in my own work to heroes motivated by obsession and on that level, Vertigo strikes a deep chord in me every time I see it. Morality, decency, kindness, intelligence, wisdom — all the qualities that we think heroes are supposed to possess — desert Jimmy Stewart’s character little by little, until he is left alone on that church tower with the bells tolling behind him and nothing to show but his humanity.
Whole books could be written about so many individual aspects of Vertigo — its extraordinary visual precision, which cuts like a razor to the soul of its characters; its many mysteries and moments of subtle poetry; its unsettling and exquisite use of color; its extra-ordinary performances by Stewart and Kim Novak — whose work is so brave and emotionally immediate — as well as the very underrated work of Barbara Bel Geddes. And that’s not to mention its astonishing title sequence by Saul Bass or its tragically beautiful score by Bernard Herrmann, both absolutely essential to the spirit, the functioning, and the power of Vertigo.
Of course, we can now hear Herrmann’s score with a clarity and breadth that it’s never had before, thanks to Bob Harris and Jim Katz, the men who worked on the beautiful, painstaking restoration of Vertigo. I’m happy that the Film Foundation was able to play a part in making this important work possible.
“The most studied and analyzed film of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, ‘Vertigo’ is on every level a masterclass in filmmaking”
Bernard Herrmann: The Second Genius
Alex Ross on Herrmann and Vertigo
Ed Chang’s cue-by-cue presentation of the Herrmann score for Vertigo:
Alex Ross on The Artist controversy
VERTIGOED: A Press Play mash-up contest