Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

A study of guilt and obsession in three acts:

Act One lasts 1h29m and I'll call it Scottie Fooled.

Act Two lasts 29m: Scottie Fooled Again

Act Three lasts just 10m: Scottie Undeceived.

Is there anything I can say about Bernard Herrmann's score, one of the most famous in film history? Sure it gets lampooned, and I heard it in The Artist a while ago. Who cares? Seldom has a director been more fortunate in his composer.

Edith Head costumes.

Available on Blu-ray.

Of all the film scholars eager to talk about Vertigo, why would anyone pick William Friedkin for the commentary track? He never has anything new or valuable to say, just narrating what we see on the screen, and even then descends into gibberish sometimes. I listened to the whole damned thing; a waste of time.

(In response to a comment on the review).

Many fine points, and I particularly want to elaborate on the above.

Both Judy and Scottie have second chances at love. Her first attempt was as an artificial dream-woman created specifically for him, but now she wants to be loved for herself. Scottie simply wants the same thing again.

In this dark vision of love and sexual fascination, men want the "power and freedom" to do what they want with the dream-women who exist mostly in their own minds. But of course the women are real and they must go along and comply with male desires if they are to have any chance at being loved. And the erotic glamor is not just one way: the need to be desired, to be the "object", can be overpowering in a woman.

In some ways our pity for Judy is curious: she is an accessory to murder, after all. She claims she changed her mind at the end but she knew what was going to happen. She was an active participant: that's why she disappeared for a while on the last day, so she could give Elster the location and arrange matching clothes.

From the Truffaut interviews I gather that Hitchcock was not entirely pleased with Kim Novak, although that may have had to do with arguments they had at the beginning. FT assures him she is brilliant on the screen, although he seems most interested in a sort of animal sexuality she projects.

I agree with you: in a way she has to carry the weight of the film even more than Stewart. Her Judy knows about the layers of deception while Scottie is oblivious, living in his fantasy world they have built for him. Judy is good at it, but as you say, not perfect. And that is great Hitchcock and a great job by Novak.

It seems to switch in the last act, when Scottie knows and she doesn't realize it. At least she seems honestly surprised when he tells her in the tower that the necklace was the tip-off. But she must have known she could never wear that for him. Was it intentional, or maybe a subconscious desire to be caught (exposed?), perhaps a desire to be punished for her part in the deception and murder?

And that takes me back to elements of the film I've never been able to untangle. At the beginning, Scottie hangs from the roof edge and we never see him get down. In a sense he is always there. Vertigo is not just a fear of falling and of death, but a phobia of being "exposed", which is losing the "power and freedom" to do anything. Somehow it is wrapped up in his guilt over the death of the other policeman. He can never make it right, but he is restored at the end and it is all very sad.