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Notes on: Vertigo *SPOILER ALERT

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Notes on:  Vertigo...do not read this if you have not seen this movie & do not want to know what happens with a key character

 

This movie is not one of my favorites because I found it to be extremely confusing & here is why: The character/s  Judy/Madeleine Kim Novak...after reading (Wiki) & Robert Erbert/Scanners...Verdant Vertigo: Dreaming in Technocolor...I can get an idea of what this movie is about...that being a murder plot set up by  Gavin Elster Tom Helmore an acquaintance of John "Scottie" Ferguson after they knew each other in collage.

 

Also, I had no idea this story was taken from a french novel to begin with...no wonder I was  confused & had little interest in trying to watch this movie again...years ago I'm talking about. I did not want to continue my confusion.

 

Poor Scottie..seems like he received a rotten deal from people around him. PTSD ...suicide, murder...another suicide...seems like more than one character can handle...even for a Hitchcock character.

 

I may return to this page  and comment further after re-watching: Vertigo...now that I know what it is about. 

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I remember that I originally had trouble with the fact that no explanation was given for how Scottie (hanging from the gutter) was rescued in the first scene.  Also, it had that breathless opening scene, and then slowed WAY down.  

 

But, yes, it is a masterpiece: so dream-like and richly layered.

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It's sometimes called the greatest film of all time.  I'm not so sure about that.  However, it may feature the best title sequence and best music score of all time.

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I love this movie.

 

SPOILER: The reveal towards the end where she is exactly the same woman worked on me. I did not realize for a minute that that was the same actress the first time I saw the film. The pure sickness of Scotty and the tragedy of him losing his love forever at the end because he couldn't sell out to a murderer is the pure essence of the film.

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I must be one of only a handful of film buffs who just doesn't like Vertigo. Released the year I was born, I have  watched this film repeatedly over the decades and as I got older I did so with the intention of truly trying to discern why the film is "the best" of Hitchcock's efforts and why everyone loves it so, and to this day, I just cannot figure out why that is?

Sure it has a terrific musical score and opening sequence that blend ever so well together. And sure it has wonderful stars and fantastic locations for filming (San Francisco will always be, in my heart,  a star, ...but then I also love Bullitt.) And there are innovative techniques and special effects, which for me seem a tad dated even for 1958, but in truth I just don't understand the story.

      Now it's not because of the more obvious plot point paradoxes, like how did Stewart get down off the roof at the beginning of the film or how did Judy and the Husband steal themselves out of the tower after the murder with no one seeing them? Or how did Stewart get both his car and Madeline's back to his apartment after her faked suicide attempt in the bay. 

      I just don't see the obsessiveness of Stewart as anything more than catastrophic, and usually Hitch always would redeem his lead characters in the end, no matter what has transpired earlier. Johnny's obsession leads to solving the crime, true, but it does not result in the punishing of the real culprit, the husband, but that of a scared woman who tries repeatedly to dissuade Stewart from their combined destructive ends. Yes she is guilty of assisting in murder and coning Stewart, but I don't know that she deserves her fate? Stewart is an ex-cop, should he not want to pursue justice? And so in the final analysis, I end up feeling more sorry for Novak and very unsympathetic toward Stewart; I only see that most of the characters in the film (with the possible exception of Midge) as just being bat-sh*t crazy, and therefore I don't really care if they all end up in jail or dead or both. Which, in the end, is just about how the movie ends for them.

     I guess I feel the movie makes no sense, and so stubbornly refuse to accept  its possible genius. ... one thing I do know is that after all these year I still do not like this move.

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I think the fact that you are not emotionally invested at all is the reason you cannot find any love for the film. I feel the same way towards The Birds. Hitch relied in the audience to have an emotional tie to the characters. The stronger the tie, the stronger the suspense is for the audience. It is just fine if you don't care for this film. This film reminds me a bit of withering heights. The characters motivations become very twisted and sick. If you are not invested in them right away you will never like the book. I am looking forward as well as dreading the birds. I am hoping to get more insight so I may appreciate it more. Then again, I may just feel like it is a waste of time like the movie itself.

I think the fact that you are not emotionally invested at all is the reason you cannot find any love for the film. I feel the same way towards The Birds. Hitch relied in the audience to have an emotional tie to the characters. The stronger the tie, the stronger the suspense is for the audience. It is just fine if you don't care for this film. This film reminds me a bit of Wuthering Heights. The characters motivations become very twisted and sick. If you are not invested in them right away you will never like the book. I am looking forward as well as dreading the birds. I am hoping to get more insight so I may appreciate it more. Then again, I may just feel like it is a waste of time like the movie itself.

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There is so much going on in the last moments of the last scene. Scottie overcomes his Vertigo. In the beginning of the film you learn that only another traumatic event will cure Vertigo. Judy confesses to her part of the murder while being "coerced" by Scottie. Scottie reaches his peak insanity. Judy finally accepts that she cannot pretend as if her part in murdering another person can be swept under the rug and forgotten, but is now a part of who she is. Judy confesses that she was willing to go along with Scottie's insanity because of her deep, non-selfperserving love for him. Scottie starts to gain some sanity and finally starts to see the real Judy for the first time. She is a mix of Judy and Madeline. He is coming to terms with her duplicity in every sense. He realizes he can love her as she truly is. Then when there is a sense that this relationship may finally have just a slim chance of survival that is when Judy is scared and falls to her doom. She seems to be haunted yet with her past behavior which is why she is so started by the nun. All of this takes place in the very last moments of the film. I am sure there is more, or there are better interpretations, but this is what I have experienced.

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I am one of the people that loves Vertigo. The first time I saw it was in a movie theatre when it was re-released in the early 1980's. I was about 17 years old, and while I was fascinated by the film, I didn't fully get WHY. 

 

I guess if you like symbolism in films and literature, which I do, you may connect more with the film. I love the color palette, the symbolism of Madeline/Judy and the color green. I can understand how people may find Scottie and Madeline/Judy creepy or unsympathetic. I find my sympathies with BOTH characters, and also with Midge. 

 

Watching the film last night for the 5th time, I found myself wondering what I would do if I suddenly saw someone who looked and moved like a loved one that I had lost. Not even necessarily a lover, but a friend, parent, child, family member, too. Would I want to talk to that doppelganger? Would being close to them bring back my deceased loved one in some way? Grief makes people do all sorts of things. 

 

SKP

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I, too, truly dislike "Vertigo" and always have.  Yes, the musical score is sublime, the locations are beautiful and the shooting is fine.  My problem is that there are no characters you can even remotely like in this film and that's a big problem to me.  James Stewart plays a bizarro, dysfunctional JERK who first obsesses over Madeleine, then completely loses it when he cannot save "her," then obsessively "makes over" Judy in Madeleine's image.  Madeleine/Judy is a bit more sympathetic of a character but the fact that she lets men control her so completely (first Elster, then Scottie Ferguson) makes her incredibly weak and more than a little crazy, too.  Barbara Bel Geddes (clearly the only grownup in the room) is also portrayed as a weirdo who wants to "mother" Scottie Ferguson in a very creepy way.  We all know that Hitchcock had his "issues" regarding women, particularly his leading ladies, and professed to "make them over completely" much as Scottie Ferguson does Judy.  Every time some self-proclaimed "expert" gushes that that "Vertigo" is Hitchcock's best or, even worse, "The Best Film Ever Made" I feel a desperate urge to throw things at the screen (or at the very least, melt down Carlotta's tacky necklace!)

 

Lydecker

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I, too, truly dislike "Vertigo" and always have.  Yes, the musical score is sublime, the locations are beautiful and the shooting is fine.  My problem is that there are no characters you can even remotely like in this film and that's a big problem to me.  James Stewart plays a bizarro, dysfunctional JERK who first obsesses over Madeleine, then completely loses it when he cannot save "her," then obsessively "makes over" Judy in Madeleine's image.  Madeleine/Judy is a bit more sympathetic of a character but the fact that she lets men control her so completely (first Elster, then Scottie Ferguson) makes her incredibly weak and more than a little crazy, too.  Barbara Bel Geddes (clearly the only grownup in the room) is also portrayed as a weirdo who wants to "mother" Scottie Ferguson in a very creepy way.  We all know that Hitchcock had his "issues" regarding women, particularly his leading ladies, and professed to "make them over completely" much as Scottie Ferguson does Judy.  Every time some self-proclaimed "expert" gushes that that "Vertigo" is Hitchcock's best or, even worse, "The Best Film Ever Made" I feel a desperate urge to throw things at the screen (or at the very least, melt down Carlotta's tacky necklace!)

 

Lydecker

Haven't watched in forever because I don't like it.  Only redeeming value for me is James Stewart's  '56 De Soto Firedome Sportsman.

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I must be one of only a handful of film buffs who just doesn't like Vertigo. Released the year I was born, I have  watched this film repeatedly over the decades and as I got older I did so with the intention of truly trying to discern why the film is "the best" of Hitchcock's efforts and why everyone loves it so, and to this day, I just cannot figure out why that is?

Sure it has a terrific musical score and opening sequence that blend ever so well together. And sure it has wonderful stars and fantastic locations for filming (San Francisco will always be, in my heart,  a star, ...but then I also love Bullitt.) And there are innovative techniques and special effects, which for me seem a tad dated even for 1958, but in truth I just don't understand the story.

      Now it's not because of the more obvious plot point paradoxes, like how did Stewart get down off the roof at the beginning of the film or how did Judy and the Husband steal themselves out of the tower after the murder with no one seeing them? Or how did Stewart get both his car and Madeline's back to his apartment after her faked suicide attempt in the bay. 

      I just don't see the obsessiveness of Stewart as anything more than catastrophic, and usually Hitch always would redeem his lead characters in the end, no matter what has transpired earlier. Johnny's obsession leads to solving the crime, true, but it does not result in the punishing of the real culprit, the husband, but that of a scared woman who tries repeatedly to dissuade Stewart from their combined destructive ends. Yes she is guilty of assisting in murder and coning Stewart, but I don't know that she deserves her fate? Stewart is an ex-cop, should he not want to pursue justice? And so in the final analysis, I end up feeling more sorry for Novak and very unsympathetic toward Stewart; I only see that most of the characters in the film (with the possible exception of Midge) as just being bat-sh*t crazy, and therefore I don't really care if they all end up in jail or dead or both. Which, in the end, is just about how the movie ends for them.

     I guess I feel the movie makes no sense, and so stubbornly refuse to accept  its possible genius. ... one thing I do know is that after all these year I still do not like this move.

 

I read there was an extended ending that showed Gavin Elster getting arrested, but Hitch ditched it.

 

But anyway, the point of the story was never Gavin Elster. His plan and his fate is the film's MacGuffin. Our focus is Scottie and the fact that is catastrophic is part of it. And in that respect, I have to ask, do we have to feel empathy towards a character like Scottie in order to enjoy the film? Is it necessary for him to have redemption for the film to be great? I think that the fact that he's so troubled and remains troubled by the end is what makes the film more interesting.

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I must be one of only a handful of film buffs who just doesn't like Vertigo. Released the year I was born, I have  watched this film repeatedly over the decades and as I got older I did so with the intention of truly trying to discern why the film is "the best" of Hitchcock's efforts and why everyone loves it so, and to this day, I just cannot figure out why that is?

Sure it has a terrific musical score and opening sequence that blend ever so well together. And sure it has wonderful stars and fantastic locations for filming (San Francisco will always be, in my heart,  a star, ...but then I also love Bullitt.) And there are innovative techniques and special effects, which for me seem a tad dated even for 1958, but in truth I just don't understand the story.

      Now it's not because of the more obvious plot point paradoxes, like how did Stewart get down off the roof at the beginning of the film or how did Judy and the Husband steal themselves out of the tower after the murder with no one seeing them? Or how did Stewart get both his car and Madeline's back to his apartment after her faked suicide attempt in the bay. 

      I just don't see the obsessiveness of Stewart as anything more than catastrophic, and usually Hitch always would redeem his lead characters in the end, no matter what has transpired earlier. Johnny's obsession leads to solving the crime, true, but it does not result in the punishing of the real culprit, the husband, but that of a scared woman who tries repeatedly to dissuade Stewart from their combined destructive ends. Yes she is guilty of assisting in murder and coning Stewart, but I don't know that she deserves her fate? Stewart is an ex-cop, should he not want to pursue justice? And so in the final analysis, I end up feeling more sorry for Novak and very unsympathetic toward Stewart; I only see that most of the characters in the film (with the possible exception of Midge) as just being bat-sh*t crazy, and therefore I don't really care if they all end up in jail or dead or both. Which, in the end, is just about how the movie ends for them.

     I guess I feel the movie makes no sense, and so stubbornly refuse to accept  its possible genius. ... one thing I do know is that after all these year I still do not like this move.

 

So glad I am not the only who doesn't like Vertigo. I saw it again recently and I still don't like it, but I do want to read the novel that it is based on because it just has to be a better story.

 

The only thing that really stood out for me on my recent viewing was the ending. Was it supposed to be funny that the nun inspired such horror in Madeleine that she jumps to her death? At first, I wondered about that. But the religious symbolism seems to continue because Scottie steps out onto the roof to look down on Madeleine's body. His vertigo has been cured, it seems, by another traumatic event, as Midge mentioned earlier in the film (although she said that experts were pessimistic that it would really work). Scottie stands on that roof, with his hands down and his palms facing outward, almost like he is a Christlike figure. I have no idea if that was Hitchcock's intent, but that is what I saw at the end of the film. It makes Scottie out to be more than saintlike, which I had a hard time believing. He was just so controlling of Madeleine and so dismissive of Midge, the woman who really did care for him.

 

So, yes, I still don't like the film!

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I, too, truly dislike "Vertigo" and always have.  Yes, the musical score is sublime, the locations are beautiful and the shooting is fine.  My problem is that there are no characters you can even remotely like in this film and that's a big problem to me.  James Stewart plays a bizarro, dysfunctional JERK who first obsesses over Madeleine, then completely loses it when he cannot save "her," then obsessively "makes over" Judy in Madeleine's image.  Madeleine/Judy is a bit more sympathetic of a character but the fact that she lets men control her so completely (first Elster, then Scottie Ferguson) makes her incredibly weak and more than a little crazy, too.  Barbara Bel Geddes (clearly the only grownup in the room) is also portrayed as a weirdo who wants to "mother" Scottie Ferguson in a very creepy way.  We all know that Hitchcock had his "issues" regarding women, particularly his leading ladies, and professed to "make them over completely" much as Scottie Ferguson does Judy.  Every time some self-proclaimed "expert" gushes that that "Vertigo" is Hitchcock's best or, even worse, "The Best Film Ever Made" I feel a desperate urge to throw things at the screen (or at the very least, melt down Carlotta's tacky necklace!)

 

Lydecker

 

But I refer you to one of the points I made in my previous post to jfedelchak where I ask: do we have to empathize with all the characters in a film to enjoy it?

 

Second, many people are being excessively dismissive of Scottie's situation. Do I think he should be held accountable of his actions? Sure, but we all have to put in perspective what he has been through. He suffered a near-death experience and the trauma of seeing someone else die because of him. The acrophobia or vertigo is merely an expression of the guilt he feels for the death of that cop. He is still reeling from the PTSD and standing at the door of retirement, so when a friend approaches him asking for his help, he sees this as a way to atone while also feeling useful in a role similar to his old job.

 

In that fragile state of mind, Scottie is used by Elster to achieve his ultimate goal of murdering his wife, but Scottie doesn't know it. So you have to add yet another layer of guilt to his baggage. Not only was he responsible for the death of the cop in the opening, but now he is responsible for the death of the woman he fell in love with, while also having to deal with having "failed" his friend. There is a bit of dark humor in the "trial" scene with the way the judge presents the facts of the case, but it all goes back to Scottie's guilt.

 

With all that in his mind, he has no alternative but to seek psychiatric help, and when he sees a woman he thinks looks like Madeleine (not knowing it's the same person), he feels the need to "rescue" her again; bring her back to life, if you may. She lost her, but Judy symbolizes the possibility of bringing her back.

 

Realizing that Madeleine wasn't in fact dead gives Scottie the drive to overcome his guilt/fear as he climbs the stairs. He doesn't feel guilty or responsible anymore because the woman he thought was dead, isn't. Unfortunately, Madeleine/Judy ends up falling, this time as she confronts her "sins" (the nun). Her reaction to the voice of the nun can also be seen as her guilt as she screams and literally jumps. The ending is intentionally ambiguous because we don't get a chance to see how Scottie will come out of the last tragedy, but we do know that he has no acrophobia anymore. Will he feel guilty now for Judy's death? will he jump?

 

Again, I do think Scottie has to be held accountable for his actions, but his character and his psyche are more complex than some of you are giving him credit for. He is a deeply troubled and flawed individual in a fragile state of mind, having to deal with extraordinary situations that he isn't fully equipped for.

 

And I think this proves that Vertigo is indeed my favorite Hitchcock... :D

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Apparently an alternate ending was filmed (probably at the insistence of the studio) for those who prefer a "Hollywood ending" or those who prefer their fiction abide by the old production code days of censorship and strict moral ethics when criminal activity and persons less than self righteous are punished before the film ends.

 

 https://youtu.be/VJBSSkn0Ldw 

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Apparently an alternate ending was filmed (probably at the insistence of the studio) for those who prefer a "Hollywood ending" or those who prefer their fiction abide by the old production code days of censorship and strict moral ethics when criminal activity and persons less than self righteous are punished before the film ends.

 

 https://youtu.be/VJBSSkn0Ldw 

When I clicked on the link in the quoted material above, it didn't work.  But this one did -- I found it by searching youtube with Vertigo alternate ending.  

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The first time I watched Vertigo, I found it slow, and a little dull (as most do at first, or maybe always). I gave it another shot after it was announced at the top of Sight and Sound's film poll, and was glad I did. I rewatched at least part of it again a few years later, enjoyed it more still. This time, having rewatched it this month, I was convinced it was Hitchcock's best film, and one of the richest tragedies I've ever seen.

 

I don't think any other of Hitch's films has the psychological understatement or richness of Vertigo (which isn't saying too much, admittedly). However, watching this time, and asking myself to sympathize with these otherwise unsympathetic characters, it was painful, honestly. They are such damaged human beings, and yet so fully human.

 

With all that in his mind, he has no alternative but to seek psychiatric help, and when he sees a woman he thinks looks like Madeleine (not knowing it's the same person), he feels the need to "rescue" her again; bring her back to life, if you may. She lost her, but Judy symbolizes the possibility of bringing her back.

 

I especially appreciate Thief12's comments, although I take issue with the one quoted. I don't necessarily know if it's rescuing her that's what he desires. Interestingly, I read that the director James Gray saw a class element in trying to restore the middle-class Judy to the upper-class Madeline, which I can totally buy.

 

However, in my own experience, I see the most realistic explanation for Scottie's attitude to be the intense, reactive, and obsessive desire to express power and control over something that has been taken or that you no longer have any control over. In all honesty, there's no reason that the clothes, makeup, and hair would have been a significant aesthetic reason for Scottie's attraction to Madeline (he surely could have fallen in love with Judy). Nor does he at any point try to change Judy's behavior. He simply wishes to exhibit complete control over her outward appearance. In many ways, it's like the definition of rape, although I would not go so far as to say that Scottie does this, but that rape is about power, not sex, Scottie's attempts to control Judy are about power, not sex. He does sincerely love Madeline, but the emotional trauma of losing her, of having failed to control her, manifests itself by his trying to have complete control over Judy. When he finally does, it's a sort of solution to the problem. No longer needing to demonstrate to himself his control over the situation, he can begin a domestic relationship with her (which we see, however briefly).

 

Of course, alternate arguments are always encouraged, but that's my reading of the film, which is why it's so painful. This is the second time Judy has been willing to forfeit all autonomy for a man, but unlike the first time, now it's about love. It's about the fact that when Scottie had power over her when he believed her to be unconscious after her attempted suicide, he did not claim it. He respectfully undressed her and put her into bed. Judy was awake for that, no doubt. How gentle and caring Scottie must have been for Judy to have allowed that to happen.

 

Vertigo stands at the closest point to which love and fetishism intersect. Each moment of love can be seen as having shadings of sexual obsession and compulsion; each moment of sexual obsession and compulsion have shadings of love.

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I read there was an extended ending that showed Gavin Elster getting arrested, but Hitch ditched it.

 

But anyway, the point of the story was never Gavin Elster. His plan and his fate is the film's MacGuffin. Our focus is Scottie and the fact that is catastrophic is part of it. And in that respect, I have to ask, do we have to feel empathy towards a character like Scottie in order to enjoy the film? Is it necessary for him to have redemption for the film to be great? I think that the fact that he's so troubled and remains troubled by the end is what makes the film more interesting.

Clearly, among classic film lovers, the world is divided into "Vertigo" lovers and haters.  Those who love "Vertigo" love it in an almost, shall we call it obsessive? way and find a million reasons to substantiate their belief that it is Hitchcock's best.  To answer your question, yes, for me, there has to be at least one character in a film I can at least like, if not love, to feel that a film has real merit.  Let's face it, if you read about a real person who was behaving as Scottie does with Judy, you'd label him a psychotic, obsessive stalker.  He'd probably be up on charges or, at the very least, have a restraining order out on him! The fact that poor, pathetic Judy is so desperate for a relationship that she'll surrender her entire being to Elster/Scottie for "love" (if you can even call it that) doesn't make it any more palatable.  Hitchcock was a talented director but I find, as the decades wore on, he became far more about gimmicks, techniques, self promotion and, yes, even his own issues, and significantly less about cleverly getting across a great story. (Don't even get me started on "Psycho" and "The Birds.") "Vertigo" is the penultimate Hitchcock self-indulgence, using Scottie Ferguson (and casting the much-loved "good guy" James Stewart in the role) as a surrogate for Hitchcock's own bizarre concept of what constitutes a normal male-female relationship.  Beyond that, I just find the film to be rather dull. Scottie becomes obsessed about Madeleine.  Scotty thinks he is responsible for her death.  Scottie loses his mind. Scottie finds Judy and obsesses over her. Scottie feels he is responsible for death.  The End.  Give me a break.

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Clearly, among classic film lovers, the world is divided into "Vertigo" lovers and haters.  Those who love "Vertigo" love it in an almost, shall we call it obsessive? way and find a million reasons to substantiate their belief that it is Hitchcock's best.  To answer your question, yes, for me, there has to be at least one character in a film I can at least like, if not love, to feel that a film has real merit.  Let's face it, if you read about a real person who was behaving as Scottie does with Judy, you'd label him a psychotic, obsessive stalker.  He'd probably be up on charges or, at the very least, have a restraining order out on him! The fact that poor, pathetic Judy is so desperate for a relationship that she'll surrender her entire being to Elster/Scottie for "love" (if you can even call it that) doesn't make it any more palatable.  Hitchcock was a talented director but I find, as the decades wore on, he became far more about gimmicks, techniques, self promotion and, yes, even his own issues, and significantly less about cleverly getting across a great story. (Don't even get me started on "Psycho" and "The Birds.") "Vertigo" is the penultimate Hitchcock self-indulgence, using Scottie Ferguson (and casting the much-loved "good guy" James Stewart in the role) as a surrogate for Hitchcock's own bizarre concept of what constitutes a normal male-female relationship.  Beyond that, I just find the film to be rather dull. Scottie becomes obsessed about Madeleine.  Scotty thinks he is responsible for her death.  Scottie loses his mind. Scottie finds Judy and obsesses over her. Scottie feels he is responsible for death.  The End.  Give me a break.

 

If I read about a real person who was behaving as Scottie, I would indeed probably label him as a "psychotic, obsessive stalker", because on the surface, that's what he is. But I'm sure in many cases, if I were to read about that person's story and what lead him to behave that way, I would feel sorry about the tragedy of his life, which BTW, doesn't mean I'm condoning the behavior.

 

The same happens here. Like I said in my posts, I'm not trying to justify Scottie's behavior and I do think he has to be held accountable, but he is a tragic character. The things that are happening to him, like I exposed on a previous post, are tragic and traumatic. To me, that's enough to draw me into a film. I don't need to "like" the character's actions, but I do need to be drawn to his/her predicament and the events surrounding him/her.

 

As for one of your last comments, I don't think that Vertigo is Hitchcock's concept of a "normal male-female relationship", or at least not from what is presented on-screen. If anything, is quite the contrary. He is presenting us with a dysfunctional relationship and the consequences it has on the two persons involved. I don't see why one would think this is a behavior that Hitchcock endorses.

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Clearly, among classic film lovers, the world is divided into "Vertigo" lovers and haters.  Those who love "Vertigo" love it in an almost, shall we call it obsessive? way and find a million reasons to substantiate their belief that it is Hitchcock's best.  To answer your question, yes, for me, there has to be at least one character in a film I can at least like, if not love, to feel that a film has real merit.  Let's face it, if you read about a real person who was behaving as Scottie does with Judy, you'd label him a psychotic, obsessive stalker.  He'd probably be up on charges or, at the very least, have a restraining order out on him! The fact that poor, pathetic Judy is so desperate for a relationship that she'll surrender her entire being to Elster/Scottie for "love" (if you can even call it that) doesn't make it any more palatable.  Hitchcock was a talented director but I find, as the decades wore on, he became far more about gimmicks, techniques, self promotion and, yes, even his own issues, and significantly less about cleverly getting across a great story. (Don't even get me started on "Psycho" and "The Birds.") "Vertigo" is the penultimate Hitchcock self-indulgence, using Scottie Ferguson (and casting the much-loved "good guy" James Stewart in the role) as a surrogate for Hitchcock's own bizarre concept of what constitutes a normal male-female relationship.  Beyond that, I just find the film to be rather dull. Scottie becomes obsessed about Madeleine.  Scotty thinks he is responsible for her death.  Scottie loses his mind. Scottie finds Judy and obsesses over her. Scottie feels he is responsible for death.  The End.  Give me a break.

 

In comparing Vertigo to Laura, you have (eventually) a controlling and obsessive Scotty Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) versus a controlling and obsessive Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) who becomes a murderer.  With the women you have Judy/Madeleine (Kim Novak) who is somewhat weak in personal character and easily manipulated by men, and Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) also weak and easily manipulated.  I assume the “likable character”

being Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) who though, not as educated or prosperous as Lydecker, is handsome, dedicated to his job, in love and without any major flaws.  What I think is being overlooked here are two major characters in Vertigo that, in my opinion, are basically flawless and independent of the script and/or actors for better or worse. 

 

The city of San Francisco, as mentioned in our lectures and commentaries is in itself a character in this film.  Rich in architecture, history, color and culture and an abundantly rich environment, much the same way Mount Rushmore was chosen as a backdrop for scenes in North by Northwest.  Imagine had Vertigo been filmed in Anytown, USA, then the character of the city would not have measured up to Hitchcock’s (or our) cinematic expectations.  The other character I refer to is Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful soundtrack.  His music can stand on its’ own without the film and be just as emotionally moving and a rich listening experience, yet there it is, perfectly in sync with the moving images to the sound of a love theme, the mystery of Carlotta Valdes and the madness and confusion within the state of acrophobia boarding on madness.

 

For those reasons I would find it hard to discount a film for having minor flaws in the script or unlikable characters when it has so much more to offer as cinematic art.  

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Clearly, among classic film lovers, the world is divided into "Vertigo" lovers and haters.  Those who love "Vertigo" love it in an almost, shall we call it obsessive? way and find a million reasons to substantiate their belief that it is Hitchcock's best.  To answer your question, yes, for me, there has to be at least one character in a film I can at least like, if not love, to feel that a film has real merit.  Let's face it, if you read about a real person who was behaving as Scottie does with Judy, you'd label him a psychotic, obsessive stalker.  He'd probably be up on charges or, at the very least, have a restraining order out on him! The fact that poor, pathetic Judy is so desperate for a relationship that she'll surrender her entire being to Elster/Scottie for "love" (if you can even call it that) doesn't make it any more palatable.  Hitchcock was a talented director but I find, as the decades wore on, he became far more about gimmicks, techniques, self promotion and, yes, even his own issues, and significantly less about cleverly getting across a great story. (Don't even get me started on "Psycho" and "The Birds.") "Vertigo" is the penultimate Hitchcock self-indulgence, using Scottie Ferguson (and casting the much-loved "good guy" James Stewart in the role) as a surrogate for Hitchcock's own bizarre concept of what constitutes a normal male-female relationship.  Beyond that, I just find the film to be rather dull. Scottie becomes obsessed about Madeleine.  Scotty thinks he is responsible for her death.  Scottie loses his mind. Scottie finds Judy and obsesses over her. Scottie feels he is responsible for death.  The End.  Give me a break.

 

I get this point of view. But I think it ignores or downplays a lot of what is brought to the table, even if you don't get into the idea of obsession, love, re-creating love, fantasy vs. reality etc or the apparent answers it has to various questions, it's just so exceptionally made and told both audio and visually. I think relying too much on liking certain characters downplays the value of a movie, but I'm probably biased growing up on Martin Scorsese movies and movies influenced by him, where there's a clear distinction between depicting/showing something and that lifestyle vs. endorsing what is depicted.  (I don't exactly root for Tony Soprano or Walter White. They're the engine to the story, but that doesn't mean they're good._ That being said, I will admit I've got to usually like something in the movie, even if it's not the leads, or feel like there's some fair view to the themes in it or the characters. That's been my biggest hangup with THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which to me eventually just became about unlikeable characters and any attempt to draw a bigger meaning out of its thematically rich setting only could end up in nastiness. All that is to say, maybe that's VERTIGO to you? Or how you look at it? But I think the visual storytelling in VERTIGO is also much stronger and interpretively rich.

 

I'd be curious what you think of Sam Peckinpah's big work,e.g. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, THE WILD BUNCH, RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, etc.. He's another director who I think one can easily find morally problematic, even in his best work. ATM, he's sort of the low bar to me. And his artistry isn't as showy as Hitchcock's, especially visually, but I think the vision and craft is inarguable.

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In comparing Vertigo to Laura, you have (eventually) a controlling and obsessive Scotty Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) versus a controlling and obsessive Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) who becomes a murderer.  With the women you have Judy/Madeleine (Kim Novak) who is somewhat weak in personal character and easily manipulated by men, and Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) also weak and easily manipulated.  I assume the “likable character”

being Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) who though, not as educated or prosperous as Lydecker, is handsome, dedicated to his job, in love and without any major flaws.  What I think is being overlooked here are two major characters in Vertigo that, in my opinion, are basically flawless and independent of the script and/or actors for better or worse. 

 

The city of San Francisco, as mentioned in our lectures and commentaries is in itself a character in this film.  Rich in architecture, history, color and culture and an abundantly rich environment, much the same way Mount Rushmore was chosen as a backdrop for scenes in North by Northwest.  Imagine had Vertigo been filmed in Anytown, USA, then the character of the city would not have measured up to Hitchcock’s (or our) cinematic expectations.  The other character I refer to is Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful soundtrack.  His music can stand on its’ own without the film and be just as emotionally moving and a rich listening experience, yet there it is, perfectly in sync with the moving images to the sound of a love theme, the mystery of Carlotta Valdes and the madness and confusion within the state of acrophobia boarding on madness.

 

For those reasons I would find it hard to discount a film for having minor flaws in the script or unlikable characters when it has so much more to offer as cinematic art.  

As I said from the beginning, I think "Vertigo" has a great score, terrific locations and is well shot. (Please read my original post before you start making comments on my comments.) My problem is in the endless romanticizing of the Scottie Ferguson character and, to a lesser extent, romanticizing the pathetic Judy. I stand by my assessment that Scottie is a much flawed and truly disturbed (to put it mildly) character. Sorry, but having great characters is much more important to a film than having a great score and interesting locations! As for comparing "Vertigo" to "Laura," I totally disagree that Laura was a weak or manipulated character.  She has NOTHING in common with Judy in "Vertigo" who is a dependent mess. Laura was a smart, brave, talented, independent woman (who had the nerve to approach Lydecker for an endorsement for an ad she created when she was a mere neophyte) who rises to a top position in her chosen field.  Judy is a clerk in a department store who is first manipulated by Elster to become an accessory to murder and then allows herself to be controlled by an obviously disturbed Scottie Ferguson. Laura makes something of herself, Judy lets men define her and, in the end, it destroys her. As for Waldo Lydecker, yes, he is a murderer, but at least he had some brains and wit. Scottie Ferguson (and everybody else in "Vertigo") is dull, dull, dull. Hitchcock clearly had real talent and real skills but (IMHO) started to rely on gimmicks and cheap tricks in his film-making as the years moved along.  For me, his best work was in the 1930's and 1940's before he embraced psychotic obsessive lovers, knives in the shower (albeit to great Hermann SFX) and killer birds to bring in the box office.  "Vertigo" defenders are as obsessive about the film as Scottie was about Madeleine.  Scary, but true.

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I get this point of view. But I think it ignores or downplays a lot of what is brought to the table, even if you don't get into the idea of obsession, love, re-creating love, fantasy vs. reality etc or the apparent answers it has to various questions, it's just so exceptionally made and told both audio and visually. I think relying too much on liking certain characters downplays the value of a movie, but I'm probably biased growing up on Martin Scorsese movies and movies influenced by him, where there's a clear distinction between depicting/showing something and that lifestyle vs. endorsing what is depicted.  (I don't exactly root for Tony Soprano or Walter White. They're the engine to the story, but that doesn't mean they're good._ That being said, I will admit I've got to usually like something in the movie, even if it's not the leads, or feel like there's some fair view to the themes in it or the characters. That's been my biggest hangup with THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which to me eventually just became about unlikeable characters and any attempt to draw a bigger meaning out of its thematically rich setting only could end up in nastiness. All that is to say, maybe that's VERTIGO to you? Or how you look at it? But I think the visual storytelling in VERTIGO is also much stronger and interpretively rich.

 

I'd be curious what you think of Sam Peckinpah's big work,e.g. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, THE WILD BUNCH, RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, etc.. He's another director who I think one can easily find morally problematic, even in his best work. ATM, he's sort of the low bar to me. And his artistry isn't as showy as Hitchcock's, especially visually, but I think the vision and craft is inarguable.

I think an apt comparison can be made of "Double Indemnity's" Walter Neff to "Vertigo's" Scottie Ferguson.  Walter Neff is a "good" man who becomes Phyllis Dietrichson's partner in crime.  He's a murderer but, because of the complexity of the character as directed by Billy Wilder and acted by Fred MacMurray, you can still "like" and feel sorry for Walter Neff. Conversely, I find Scottie Ferguson to be a complete skin crawl.  He's a cop who can't perform his duties, he's a rich guy (so it doesn't really matter if he works) and those are his redeeming qualifications!! He's also a bizarro, stalking obsessive "lover" who goes from Madeleine to Judy (not knowing that Judy is Madeleine) making poor, dumb Judy over in Madeleine's image to suit his needs.  Scottie Ferguson is a cardboard character and I think many of the folks who dislike "Vertigo" totally get that.  Walter Neff's actions are even more heinous than Ferguson's but Walter Neff seems like a fully fleshed (albeit tragically flawed) human being.  I guess that's why (among a few other reasons) "Vertigo" is, to me, nowhere near Hitchcock's best.

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I think an apt comparison can be made of "Double Indemnity's" Walter Neff to "Vertigo's" Scottie Ferguson.  Walter Neff is a "good" man who becomes Phyllis Dietrichson's partner in crime.  He's a murderer but, because of the complexity of the character as directed by Billy Wilder and acted by Fred MacMurray, you can still "like" and feel sorry for Walter Neff. Conversely, I find Scottie Ferguson to be a complete skin crawl.  He's a cop who can't perform his duties, he's a rich guy (so it doesn't really matter if he works) and those are his redeeming qualifications!! He's also a bizarro, stalking obsessive "lover" who goes from Madeleine to Judy (not knowing that Judy is Madeleine) making poor, dumb Judy over in Madeleine's image to suit his needs.  Scottie Ferguson is a cardboard character and I think many of the folks who dislike "Vertigo" totally get that.  Walter Neff's actions are even more heinous than Ferguson's but Walter Neff seems like a fully fleshed (albeit tragically flawed) human being.  I guess that's why (among a few other reasons) "Vertigo" is, to me, nowhere near Hitchcock's best.

 

But DOUBLE INDEMNITY is not as strongly tied to POV in it's construction, even though Neff narrates the voiceovers. DOUBLE INDEMNITY the apotheosis of film noir. VERTIGO is more like a bridge to TAXI DRIVER, where the movie is centered (with some small breaks) around the lead male character and his point of view and emotions. But VERTIGO also has plenty of the Hitchcock staples woven in, and out of all his movies, it's probably the clearest example of being dream-like and questioning reality vs. illusion or fantasy. And that fits because while Scottie is a former lawyer and policemen struggling against his traumatic mental condition of vertigo, he's a bit of an everyman who gets sucked into Elster and Madeline/Judy's web of illusion. He's also someone who has become relatively powerless and has lost his freedom after he's gotten vertigo, and (to some degree) his ending scene with Judy is a way for him to regain his freedom and power, and get out from under illusion, but that doesn't quite work out happily to say the least...

 

I'll give you that Scottie is less likeable. Of course, Scottie is a pervert. But he can't perform his duties because he couldn't make 1 jump and then either got agoraphobia or made the pre-exisiting condition worse. I don't think we can say he was wholly incompetent considering he eventually cracks the case that the judicial system itself was unable to and how he also, somehow, hangs onto that roof for long enough to be rescued. And as I mentioned earlier, he isn't satisfied with his disability and wants to work to overcome it. He just proves out of his depth for almost the entire film. I don't find Scottie too likeable at all, either, but I don't think that makes the movie less interesting or engaging. Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE would be another example of a movie with a (even more) repulsive lead character that is still a hell of a movie.

 

Finally, I'd resist characterizing Judy as dumb. She's certainly flawed, but I don't think she's dumb. She ends up falling in love in Scottie, despite the rather creepy implication, that when he saved her from the water he took her clothes off and put her into bed (though sex isn't necessarily implied), and she's got to try to navigate the huge betrayal and deception she put on him, as well as try to get him to forgive her and love her who Judy is as opposed to Madeiline. Of course, this is impossible and ends up with death and broken dreams.

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To anyone who has watched VERTIGO. I'd highly recommend this video breaking down the blocking in the scene between Scottie and Elster earlier on in the film.

 

 

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As I said from the beginning, I think "Vertigo" has a great score, terrific locations and is well shot. (Please read my original post before you start making comments on my comments.) My problem is in the endless romanticizing of the Scottie Ferguson character and, to a lesser extent, romanticizing the pathetic Judy. I stand by my assessment that Scottie is a much flawed and truly disturbed (to put it mildly) character. Sorry, but having great characters is much more important to a film than having a great score and interesting locations! As for comparing "Vertigo" to "Laura," I totally disagree that Laura was a weak or manipulated character.  She has NOTHING in common with Judy in "Vertigo" who is a dependent mess. Laura was a smart, brave, talented, independent woman (who had the nerve to approach Lydecker for an endorsement for an ad she created when she was a mere neophyte) who rises to a top position in her chosen field.  Judy is a clerk in a department store who is first manipulated by Elster to become an accessory to murder and then allows herself to be controlled by an obviously disturbed Scottie Ferguson. Laura makes something of herself, Judy lets men define her and, in the end, it destroys her. As for Waldo Lydecker, yes, he is a murderer, but at least he had some brains and wit. Scottie Ferguson (and everybody else in "Vertigo") is dull, dull, dull. Hitchcock clearly had real talent and real skills but (IMHO) started to rely on gimmicks and cheap tricks in his film-making as the years moved along.  For me, his best work was in the 1930's and 1940's before he embraced psychotic obsessive lovers, knives in the shower (albeit to great Hermann SFX) and killer birds to bring in the box office.  "Vertigo" defenders are as obsessive about the film as Scottie was about Madeleine.  Scary, but true.

 

But I think the issue is with the interpretation people give to the film. See, I never felt that Vertigo romanticized Scottie. If anything, Hitchcock does the complete opposite. As we've seen in the course, Hitchcock liked to cast big stars and use their fame to his advantage (see Cary Grant). In Vertigo, he casts a well-known "everyman" in Jimmy Stewart, and then proceeds to strip him of morale and redeemable qualities to flip the table on the audience, who would expect him to be the "good guy". Yet another reason why I love the film. Nothing is what it seems; because even the "lead actor" who was "supposed" to be the "good guy" ends up being, in your words, a "flawed and truly disturbed character".

 

The other issue I have with your post is your dismissal of "Vertigo defenders" as "obsessive", because it defuses any interest I might have for further discussion. If anything I bring to the table will be brushed aside by just saying I'm being "obsessive", then why bother? And if I weren't to stand up for a film I'm passionate about, then what are we doing here? Frankly, it is a dismissal of the mere nature of film discussion and forums as a whole.

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