I finally caught Vertigo for the first time tonight. I feel bad reading in-depth reviews on the Internet. It’s one of those movies where I feel like I should watch it with someone, discuss afterward, discuss again the next day, and maybe watch again a week later for a wrap-up discussion. There’s a lot there to be read.
On the surface, though, I did very much enjoy the movie. There were some nice, surprising twists. Doubly to the movie’s credit since a film of Vertigo’s vintage is usually ripped off 137 different ways by now. The ending? Well, a little dues exy, but again it deserves a discussion.
It’s neat to see a film from 1958 (synonymous for “spoiler alert”) that set the bar for movies long into the future. Remember the scene on the “hobbit trail” in the first LotR movie? When You-Just-Killed-My-Puppy-Dog-Eyes looks into the forest path as the black riders are felt to be approaching, there is a camera trick which causes the path (in the center) to appear like it is coming out of the screen as the trees push away. (Or visa-versa, I really don’t remember.) I repeat, this is strictly camera work. When I first saw it I assumed it was special effects (e.g. CGI). Nope. I was corrected. Vertigo makes use of this technique to provide the feeling of, well, vertigo. I don’t know if Hitchcock is the pioneer of this technique, but there it was in 1958.
From an achingly in-depth review/reading:
Director Hitchcock used two simultaneous devices to achieve the effect and create an approximation of the disoriented psychological state of the character - the camera both tracks away from the subject while also zooming towards it. The simultaneous, opposing movements - a forward zoom and a reverse tracking shot - also represent the attraction and repulsion that the main protagonists experience in their relationships. The camera effect is used in [the opening] scene, and in the first mission stairwell sequence.
A lot of times an older movie falls flat with me because the innovations it represents have been pounded into the ground by the Hollywood machine. Vertigo really didn’t feel bad at all. It certainly kept me “leaning forward” throughout.
Another thing I enjoy about older movies are when lines are uttered that end up being band, book or movies names of the more recent era. For instance, Midge mentions the “Skid Row” area of San Fransisco early in the movie. Now the term “skid row” is not beholden to Vertigo in any way, and I’m guessing the band didn’t borrow it from the movie. (Incidentally, I read on the Internet that Nirvana was once called Skid Row, which makes sense being that Seattle has, or had, an explicitly defined skid row.) At the end of the movie, Scottie calls Judy (or Madeleine or Maddie) and “apt pupil.” Twice. Coincidence? There was one more example I cannot remember now. I believe it matched a current band name.