Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Vertiginous Evangelism

Vertigo is one of those films that the experience of watching is extremely intense for me. I am, like everyone else, following the emotional arc of the story, but viewing a Hitchcock film, for a filmmaker, is always a matter of thinking, "How?" Any of Hitch's films, and Vertigo in particular, are movies that use the medium to the best advantage. The "gimmick" that has been copied in every film ever made since Vertigo of the track-in zoom-out is an example of art and technology working together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Furthermore, the music score is one of Bernard Herrmann's best, and the film often favors the score, allowing long passages to pass in which Robert Burks' VistaVision* images and Herrmann's music are the primary storytelling elements - as such making it one of the most cinematic of all movies.

The music is so intergral to the film that it is often used as a yardstick for how film/music interaction can achieve goals that are not only narrative or emotional, but mythic as well.

The Vertigo score made such an impression on me that I find it impossible to think of San Francisco without thinking of the music; 'Frisco is just as much a star of this film as James Stewart, Kim Novak or Barbara Bel Geddes, and I played the slow, meandering music that plays while Scotty (Stewart) tails Madeline (Novak) when my friends and I first entered 'Frisco when driving cross-country (they loved it).

The music is part of what makes Vertigo effective as entertainment despite its languid pace. I love showing the film to people or watching it with an audience (the showing I saw of the restored version in 70 millimeter at the Ziegfield was a great audience experience) because it is interesting to see people adapt from the frenetic pace of modern films to the much more introspective beats of this one; the music plays a large role in getting the viewer to accept this (films like American Beauty and Lost In Translation are bringing the aesthetic of stillness back into cinema, thankfully).

In class discussion today about the Nathaniel Hawthorne story about the birthmark (the title escapes me at the moment), I commented that the story not only echoed that of the Fall (which the professor was referencing), but was also Orphic.

I mentioned that I was thinking about Orphic tragedy because I had just shown Vertigo to a friend of mine who had not seen the film before. Several of my classmates expressed an interest in the film, and the professor wrote it on the board. It was nice to see so many people interested in a real film.


* VistaVision was Paramount's answer to the widescreen and large-format movement that occured in Hollywood in the Fifties to combat television. It used regular 35 millimeter film, but fed horizontally, like a still camera, exposing much more surface area (yielding aspect ratios between 1.66:1 and 1.85:1). Theatrical prints were standard vertical, but they looked somewhat better because the original negative was so densely detailed. When James Katz and Robert Harris restored Vertigo, they made 70 millimeter theatrical prints for it that looked absolutely stunning.
Tags: alfred hitchcock, bernard herrmann, cinema, driving, film music, reviews
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