Starring-James Stewart, Kim Novak
Top 100 Films-#6
Reviewed August 5, 2014
Over the years Vertigo has easily become one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films and I learn, appreciate, or see something new with each repeated viewing. It is an absolute masterpiece. The primary appeal to Vertigo is its mystique and dream-like quality and provides a beautiful cinematic experience. It is ominous, psychological, and gloriously complex, even confusing at times, but that makes it wonderful. The colorful opening visuals are dynamic and groundbreaking.
The story involves a retired detective, Scottie, played by Hitchcock stalwart Jimmy Stewart. Scottie suffers from vertigo, which hinders his daily life. After an incident in which a police officer is killed and Scottie blames himself and his vertigo for causing the death, he whiles away the days brooding and keeping companionship with Midge- a college friend whom he was once engaged to.
One day he is hired by another college friend to follow his wife, played tremendously by Kim Novak, who is acting strangely and periodically disappearing, having an obsession with a painting of a woman from years past. From this point the plot twists and turns in great mysterious fashion and mixed in is a romantic, bizarre, obsessive, love story. Is Scottie in his right mind? Will his vertigo continue to haunt him? What is the secret to Madeleine and Judy? Is Midge as sweet as she appears?
The score to Vertigo is haunting and unforgettable and adds so much mood and ambience to the film. Set in San Francisco, several location shots are featured- Golden Gate Bridge, downhill streets, the Mission, Red Wood forest.
As with all Hitchcock films, all sets and details in the film are perfect from paint brushes, coffee mugs, and curtains and furniture, to the gorgeous bright red décor of the restaurant heavily featured in the film. How exquisite does Kim Novak look in the film??
Originally critically panned upon its release it is now considered one of the greatest films of all time, deservedly so, and has influenced countless other films with its unique camera angles and slow, methodical pacing. The film is not always an easy watch as it is complex, to be fair, but like a fine wine, it gets better and better.
Vertigo is a layered psychological thriller that is appreciated more and more with each viewing.