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Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO


MissGoddess
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Hi, Miss G -- Thanks to our Scottie for the best analysis of Vertigo I've read. I look forward to watching Vertigo again with all these deep points settling in.

 

Thank you for paying me such a high compliment. It means a lot to me.

 

I'll tackle your other comments tomorrow night. I'm also going to post the dialogue between Madeleine and Scottie right before she enters the bell tower.

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Frank, I must also add my thanks to you for that wonderful analysis. VERTIGO is my favorite Hitchcock film. The first time I saw it was on it's theatrical re-release in the 1980's. I didn't really get it back then, but found it interesting--I was about 18 years old at the time. Then I watched it again in my 20's after I had a couple of love affairs and I really GOT it. The obsessive side of love and physical attraction. The feeling of wanting to be saved and surrender. I don't care about the plot holes (which aren't really that major, IMO); I just love being swept away by Stewart's and Novak's perfomances.

 

Sandy K

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Are there any French movies from the late fifties, early sixties, that pay homage to VERTIGO?

 

Thanks for posting the dialogue. Many layers to this movie. I'm still trying to figure it all out; your insightful comments have made me want to re-evaluate its importance.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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You see how careers ebb and flow. One minute you're working with the Master of Suspense playing a doctor to James Stewart another icon of the silver screen.

 

The next minute you're playing a banker named Mr. Drysdale, playing second fiddle to Max Baer Jr. and Irene Ryan.

 

Gee. Hollywood's a tough place. That's show bizzzzzzzzzz.

 

By the by...your thesis on "Vertigo" is masterful Frank!! I say you and MissGoddess oughta put a book of essays together. "Talking About the Movies." C'mon!! Oooh, Jeanne Moreau is on right now in "Elevator to the Gallows." Gotta run. Night folks.

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Hi, Sandy -- You know, I'm not sure I have ever said "hi" to you before or it has been ages since I have. Hi!

 

Thank you for your complimentary words on my Vertigo thoughts. I had been meaning to share my comments much earlier than I did but this thread ran up the bell tower steps on me before I knew it and I have just now conquered my acrophobia.

 

VERTIGO is my favorite Hitchcock film.

 

That's very interesting to me. Women don't always fall for Vertigo, so I tend to take notice of those who do, like the lady who started this thread.

 

The first time I saw it was on it's theatrical re-release in the 1980's. I didn't really get it back then, but found it interesting--I was about 18 years old at the time. Then I watched it again in my 20's after I had a couple of love affairs and I really GOT it. The obsessive side of love and physical attraction.

 

I only recently got into classic films and Hitchcock was my gateway drug. I first saw Vertigo during AMC's film preservation festival of Hitch films in the late-90s. Classic film was all very new to me and my tastes had yet to mature but I liked Vertigo right away. I was completely into it. As for love affairs, that's actually very foreign to me. I totally believe your words on the subject, though.

 

The feeling of wanting to be saved and surrender.

 

Brilliant observation. That's one I completely missed, but the bell is ringing on that one. Saved by love and surrender to love/lust. Exceptional.

 

Hey, Birthday Bronxie -- I was hoping you'd return to the scene. You really did raise some phenomenal questions a month ago. Thay made me think.

 

Thanks for posting the dialogue. Many layers to this movie. I'm still trying to figure it all out; your insightful comments have made me want to re-evaluate its importance.

 

John and Judy really didn't expect to fall for each other. John was definitely aroused by this "Madeleine" figure, but he had no idea he was going to slip into obsessive madness. Sandy is very right about John wanting to "save" Madeleine. Judy thought she was just going to make some cash in a horribly exotic murder scheme, yet she ends up falling for Scottie, a very sympathetic figure to start. Again, Sandy is right, Judy wanted to "surrender" to Scottie. Scottie was driven more by lust and Judy was driven more by love. Men and women, what an interesting mix they make.

 

Heya, CineMaven -- By the by...your thesis on "Vertigo" is masterful Frank!! I say you and MissGoddess oughta put a book of essays together. "Talking About the Movies." C'mon!!

 

Thank you, CM. Terribly nice of you.

 

Miss G would end up strangling me. Actually, no, that's not her style. She prefers poison, and then she'd strangle me. Well, at least she'd wear that grey suit of hers and bring flowers. She does have style, I'll give her that.

 

 

vertigo14.jpg

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Hey there, Miss G -- I intuitively picked up on many of these points, but it's the language of film with which I am still not fluent. I am seldom sure what colors and visual images represent to Hitch and other filmmakers so this breaks it down nicely for me. (I have the same problem in literary and art analysis: understanding the symbolism of objects and settings)

 

Intuitive is usually the primary goal of symbolism in film. A filmmaker may be aiming to elicit an emotional response from the audience more so than a cognitive one. Not always, though.

 

I tend to like filmmakers who use the entire canvas to transport the emotions and sensuality of a film and its players. Wardrobe and set design are two major weapons at the disposal of a filmmaker. A setting can say so much about a person's emotional state or about their personality if done correctly. The same be said for clothing. Colors and patterns in sets and wardrobe convey an unspoken language to the audience. It's a language that is very subversive in nature, and quite powerful when done right.

 

In wardrobe, the most common way to convey emotions to an audience is via color. You can capture so many feelings just by changing the color of an outfit or a shirt or pants. Some colors are warm, some are cold. Some clash. Patterns are another primary way to create feelings. You can subtly show an audience how two characters feel about each other by their selection of clothes. It's a nice little way to show how a relationship is developing throughout the film.

 

Set design has a big effect on an audience. The look of a setting can say so very much. For example, a room with photos on tables and the wall can be seen as warm and one without them cold. The design of the furniture can say a lot about the personality of the owner. The colors throughout a setting can cause the viewer to focus in on certain areas more so than others. There are so many little tricks a filmmaker can use to their advantage. One of my favorites, Fritz Lang, was known for this. Arguably, his greatest strength as a filmmaker was mise-en-sc?ne.

 

Screenwriters can also help clue a viewer in on how a character's interactions are coming along. You can show how a relationship is progressing by repeating certain words or phrases in the script. The closer two people start to become, you'll notice they will start to speak a similar language and use similar words. It shows the audience there's a connection. This can be particularly powerful when the two are apart from each other. It let's the audience know they are very in tune with each other.

 

A writer can also use keywords to trigger emotional responses from a character. Just hearing certain words can stir the pot for characters and the audience. For example, I know there are a couple words I wouldn't say around you because I feel like they will trigger a negative feeling for you. Conversely, there are words that would trigger positive feelings, too. Everyone has their buttons, so why shouldn't fictional characters?

 

Character design is not an easy chore. I consider it to be far more difficult than wardrobe or set. But if you can nail down a character's hot spots and cold spots, it makes script development a little easier. Of course, there are many writers and filmmakers who could care less about the depth of their characters. It's the story that ultimately matters to most who watch films. I just happen to be someone who feeds off character development (especially emotional and psychological) and visuals. A story can actually misfire with me and I still may walk away liking a film if the characters and visuals draw me in.

 

The corridor with the mirrors sequence was always beyond me. Are they supposed to mean some sort of change in the character's point of view or feelings?

 

Keep in mind, this is only my opinion. I believe the corridors in Vertigo represent journeys. Madeleine's corridor is the scheme. At the end of her corridor, she actually dies. She will no longer exist. Judy and Midge's corridors represent their love for Scottie. At the end of each is the loss of Scottie's love. Since the scheme will be ending, Judy's love for Scottie will also end. Scottie is in love with Madeleine, not Judy. Midge's lonely walk down the corridor is quite powerful because we see it. She's dead inside because Scottie has "gone away" and she fears he will never come back. She's been carrying a torch for the guy since college and now he's gone. A major part of her is dead.

 

I consider Madeleine's mentioning of "fragments of that mirror" as a sign of Judy's presence. Mirrors equal duplicity, so Madeleine and Judy were always present in the corridor she is speaking of but they are fragmented now because Scottie has started to shatter those mirrors with his love for Madeleine. Judy wants to come out so badly but she can't for the scheme's sake, plus, she knows Scottie is in love with Madeleine and not her. Should she tell Scottie the truth? How would he take that? Well, we find that out later on.

 

Corridors seem to mean a great deal in movies---John Ford uses them sometimes and it's always significant of something deep. I remember Hitch also featured them in Spellbound and Rebecca, too.

 

Corridors are often used as symbols of journey, fear, loneliness, and the unknown. It's not across the board, of course. Each film is different and there are many filmmakers who just shoot a script. It's the masters who tend to speak a hidden language, an emotional dialect that I devour. It's why directors move me more than any other creative force in filmmaking. That's not to say I don't appreciate a great script, brilliant acting, or enchanting scores. I like all of those aspects, too. It's just that visuals tend to grab me first and foremost.

 

I will post Scottie and Madeleine's scene before she flees him for the bell tower, probably tomorrow.

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Thank you very much for those insightful explanations, Professor Grimes! I hope many people visit this thread and read over your posts if they want to understand *Vertigo* better. I never would have thought about the mirror fragments possibly representing Judy---that really has me thinking.

 

I have always thought I have been drawn to characters in movie first and foremost, stories secondly and visuals last. Lately, I cannot say for certain if, in fact, it is due to the way the director and screenwriter have presented the characters/stories that causes me to have such affection for certain films.

 

It's funny, too, because most of my early favorites were by and large films directed by either lesser known studio directors or "invisible" directors like Wyler and Stevens. There is more stillness than what I'd call style or vivid expressionism to the movies I was first drawn to (and still am). I would say John Ford is like my bridge between the two extremes. He mastered the complete language of film and could step back and use whatever he felt was necessary, usually employing a "less is more" approach. Hitch is at the other end---he's very stylistic and his scenes are loaded with interesting signals and the camera is often uniquely placed so it can be a real trip to the amusement park to watch his films, and yet, he's very concerned with character and that keeps me coming back to his stories again and again.

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SMACK! That was me, slapping my forehead. I'm OK.

 

I think Vertigo is a "senses" film more than anything else. It's very much Hitch's "art" film.

 

OK, now I get it. It's safe to say I'll never look at Vertigo the same way again. It's long been among my least favorite Hitch films, largely because the story is such a mess. But next time I watch it I'll pretend it was made by a director whose name I've never heard -- maybe a European with a taste for nonlinear narrative and surrealism -- and I reckon I'll enjoy it a good deal more than I did before. No wonder Hitch treated Luis Bunuel like royalty when they met!

 

Thanks Frank. I'm reminded of what someone said years ago on another movie forum, about In the Mood for Love: "You should not need to analyze the film. Just watch it, forget every other movie that you've ever seen, and let it touch you deep down inside."

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Hi, Miss Goddess -- Thank you very much for those insightful explanations, Professor Grimes! I hope many people visit this thread and read over your posts if they want to understand Vertigo better. I never would have thought about the mirror fragments possibly representing Judy---that really has me thinking.

 

I've got you thinking? Uh-oh. That's the mind, right? Hmmm.

 

"Professor"? Naaah. That's Dewey and Moira's title. I'm still very much a freshman on classic campus. Okay, I'm not a frosh with Hitch, though. I'm a little more advanced in this area.

 

I have always thought I have been drawn to characters in movie first and foremost, stories secondly and visuals last. Lately, I cannot say for certain if, in fact, it is due to the way the director and screenwriter have presented the characters/stories that causes me to have such affection for certain films.

 

I have noticed this awakening with you, Miss G. You seem to be very open to new ideas and thoughts. You wear it well. You look smashing.

 

You are very correct about a director and screenwriter helping a performer look good in a story. There are times when performers are the only thing good in horrible dreck, too. Plenty of times. The best films have it all working. Vertigo is a film that does have it all working... and then some. It's why critics hail it as Hitch's masterpiece. Rear Window is often the fan's choice, though. Nothing wrong with that. I actually prefer watching Rear Window to Vertigo because it's more consumable, like a good meal. Vertigo is more of an erotic experience. It's sex.

 

It's funny, too, because most of my early favorites were by and large films directed by either lesser known studio directors or "invisible" directors like Wyler and Stevens. There is more stillness than what I'd call style or vivid expressionism to the movies I was first drawn to (and still am).

 

Everyone is going to respond to films differently. I come from a director's point of view more often than not, so I'm drawn to great directors first and foremost. Most people who like classic films tend to like the performers the most. That's the norm.

 

By the way, I like George Stevens. He knew how to shoot "grand." Wyler also showed some style at times. But your point is well taken. And, for the record, I don't toss directors to the side who aren't as visually and emotionally creative as Hitch, John Ford, Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, etc. I can enjoy the "let's just shoot it" directed films, too. I just prefer the masters. Talk about a serious understatement by me.

 

I would say John Ford is like my bridge between the two extremes. He mastered the complete language of film and could step back and use whatever he felt was necessary, usually employing a "less is more" approach.

 

That's a helluva bridge. I haven't watched enough of Ford's films to understand his style of directing yet. All I know is that he believed in the largeness of the landscape and the human struggles against such a sometimes daunting backdrop. Human struggles is what I really think of with Ford. That's most definitely my speed.

 

Hitch is at the other end---he's very stylistic and his scenes are loaded with interesting signals and the camera is often uniquely placed so it can be a real trip to the amusement park to watch his films, and yet, he's very concerned with character and that keeps me coming back to his stories again and again.

 

Ooohh, I liked your words about Hitch. An "amusement park." Perfect. Hitch did have his formula, but he always found a way to tweak that formula. There was always a "new ride." Hitch also made films that moved him. He had the power and sway to do this as time went on. He was fortunate in that regard. I'm very glad that he did because what we see is Hitch being Hitch for the better part of his 53-film canon. I seriously enjoy the vast majority of his films on some sort of level.

 

FYI, love the pix, Pixie.

 

Hi, Content Guy -- It's nice to see one of my noir pals hanging out in Hitch country.

 

OK, now I get it. It's safe to say I'll never look at Vertigo the same way again. It's long been among my least favorite Hitch films, largely because the story is such a mess. But next time I watch it I'll pretend it was made by a director whose name I've never heard -- maybe a European with a taste for nonlinear narrative and surrealism -- and I reckon I'll enjoy it a good deal more than I did before. No wonder Hitch treated Luis Bunuel like royalty when they met!

 

Hitch took a lot from Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, and other German directors at UFA at the start of his career. I believe his keen visual sense was deeply affected by his experience in Germany. Luis Bunuel is the director Hitch would mention as his favorite of all time, though. Talk about a very high compliment for Bunuel. Vertigo is the most Bunuel-esque of Hitch's career. Spellbound and Marnie are two other films of his that have Bunuel pulsations.

 

Thanks Frank. I'm reminded of what someone said years ago on another movie forum, about In the Mood for Love: "You should not need to analyze the film. Just watch it, forget every other movie that you've ever seen, and let it touch you deep down inside."

 

If one is looking for the logical in Vertigo they will be disappointed. It's the illogical that haunts Vertigo. Illogical is what John "Scottie" Ferguson's obsessive lust/love is.

 

By the way, I find the "MacGuffin" in Vertigo to be the most captivating of all Hitch "MacGuffins." The "MacGuffin" is the murder of the real Madeleine. Oddly enough, it's nearly unimportant in the film. We just don't care about this woman. Now that's hard to pull off. It's quite amazing.

 

I hope you do give Vertigo another chance. I bet you enjoy it far more the next time you watch it.

 

Hey, Kylefornia -- I've never seen that morbid poster for Vertigo. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm sure you got the obsessive lust/love vibe of the film from that poster just as I did, right? Kyle? Kyle? Code blue. Code blue.

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It's incredible how much there is to those scenes of which I only picked up the faintest glimmers. I suspected Madeleine was looking out for Elster in that scene in the carriage shed, but had no idea you could actually see his car in that one shot.

 

The bit about the forest for the trees, how clever. How very, very clever. What a fortunate woman Alma was!

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Hi, Miss Goddess -- It's incredible how much there is to those scenes of which I only picked up the faintest glimmers. I suspected Madeleine was looking out for Elster in that scene in the carriage shed, but had no idea you could actually see his car in that one shot. The bit about the forest for the trees, how clever. How very, very clever.

 

Vertigo is a film where there is actually more unsaid than said. That's why I call it a "film for the senses." Bernard Herrmann's score really adds to the unsaid, too.

 

What a fortunate woman Alma was!

 

I think Hitch was just as fortunate. Alma is the woman who kept "naughty" Hitch in line most of the time. She was also a brilliant script adviser and writer. As you know, I consider Hitch and Alma to be the Nick and Nora of filmmaking. They were a true team. And to think, they were born just one day apart in 1899.

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Hi, Red River -- Who is this Frank Grimes? If he is a man, bring him to me in chains. If he is a myth, bring him to me in a bottle.

 

Wow! That's the first and last time I'll ever reach that kind of epic level in my lifetime.

 

For the record, I'm most definitely myth and I'm used to being placed in chains on this board, so how about a little bit of column "A" and a plenty of column "B". What's that? You need help moving a heavy olivewood "t"? Sure, I'll volunteer. I do have a saintly quality sometimes.

 

So does "Red" mean wine and "River" mean Babylon? I thought so.

 

Thanks for the grandest of compliments. I'm afraid it's downhill for me from here, that is, unless, I were to...

 

"So let it be written. So let it be done."

 

Miss G(host from Christmas Past) -- It's funny, but so many of the artists and professionals I admire were born just before the dawn of the twentieth century.

 

How old are you again? You're 108-years-old? I'd love to give you a compliment but, you know. Red River is actually the one who is best at dishing out complimentary desserts around here. Just don't ask for any Devil's Food cake. It appears that somebody has already eaten all of it. Not a crumb to be found, either. Might I suggest some Angel Food? Did you just crinkle your nose?

 

FYI, watch out for the tea, it has a little bit of a kick to it. It can cause madness. By the way, I like that suit of yours and I really like it when you pin up your hair like that. I guess it takes a lot of pins to do that.

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I still say you two oughta write a book of essays. Your by-play makes me think of Loy & Grant, or is that Dunne & Grant. No I meant Roz & Grant. There....THAT'S the ticket!!! I meant Kerr & Grant. ;-)

 

Or would that be Cary & Kate. Whatever...wonderful to read your missives. Have you two been properly introduced in real life??

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No I meant Roz & Grant. There....THAT'S the ticket!!!

 

CM, he doesn't need any encouragement to be Mr. Burns. And I'm not sure I like how I'd look in those vertical stripes and shoulder pads. Roz was built more like Knute Rockne than I am. ;)

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