Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vertigo for Life

by guest contributor Dan Auiler

A month of Vertigo is light sentence. Most of us who encounter this film end up serving life sentences. Our lives, our thoughts become trapped in the vortex of the strong currents this film produces. Vertigo's meaning and importance in film have become so varied and vital that choosing one tendril spinning out from one of John Whitney's Lissajous diagrams is challenging - but keeping that line of thought from swirling back into the film's center and tossing you out on some other surprising shore is just about impossible.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vertigo: Alfred Hitchcock's Edifice to Obsession

a video blog by guest contributor Brandon Kyle Goco

Brandon Goco, guest host of Turner Classic Movies’ monthly podcast series for October 2011, is both a film student and a movie fanatic. He has penned well over a hundred individual blogs for the TCM Classic Film Union, has his own blog, Brandon Kyle the Cinephile, and has only recently taken up video blogging. At the age of 20, Brandon is currently attending a California State University, majoring in film studies and working part-time as the production coordinator and general manager for the university’s local television station. He has dreams of becoming a film director or film preservationist some day.

Brandon on Vertigo (he recommends his video be viewed in 720p):

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

James Stewart: A Walk on the Dark Side

by guest contributor Classicfilmboy

Alfred Hitchcock had a knack for bringing out the worst in the best of actors.

And I mean that as a compliment. He could take likable leading men, cast them as dark characters and draw great performances. Think of Cary Grant’s Johnnie in Suspicion (before the studio re-edited the ending), Joseph Cotton’s Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt and Robert Walker’s Bruno in Strangers on a Train.

Perhaps the best example of this was how Hitchcock used James Stewart, whose image was the “aw shucks” guy next door. As Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan suggests, his heroes began to deepen with Grant and then with Stewart, and those films deepened as a result.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

VERTIGO, the Bit Players

by guest contributor Allen Hefner

Kim Novak with Tom Helmore in Vertigo

A movie as incredible as Vertigo (1958) is a collaboration of many parts.  Even an actor as talented as James Stewart can’t carry a film of this complexity by himself.  The locations, scenery, costumes, set decoration, lighting, music, bit parts and even the cars are important to make any film a success. 

I enjoy looking at the Bit Parts in a movie…seeing where the Bit Actors came from and where they went after a successful movie.  Most of them didn’t get paid much, but the good ones put their whole heart and soul into each role, whether it was a small part in a television western or an opportunity to supply an important plot element in a movie like Vertigo.

Let’s look at some of the larger Bit Parts in Vertigo.  I have listed them in order of the number of roles they have played during their career. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hitchcock Biographer Patrick McGilligan Discusses VERTIGO with John Greco

by guest contributor John Greco

John Greco of Twenty Four Frames recently interviewed award-winning biographer Patrick McGilligan, author of Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (Harper Collins, 2004). The focus of their dialogue was the director's mysterious and magnificent Vertigo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Inconsequential Yarn

by guest contributor Steven DeRosa

“They say every true San Franciscan has one foot on a hill and the other in the past.”—Kate in Samuel Taylor’s The Pleasure of His Company

Since Vertigo is a film that garners such personal reactions, I wanted to begin this piece on something of a personal note. It’s not a matter of whether one likes the film or doesn’t.  For those who truly connect with Vertigo, it’s because it resonates with something inside of them. I was in high school when I saw Vertigo for the first time and the build up to seeing it was intense. It was only a few months before that I had begun to seriously study the master’s work, having been introduced to The Lodger, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Notorious, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. Having become hooked on Hitchcock through that line up in school, I began my own exploration of every Hitchcock film I could get my hands on and by reading the corresponding chapter from Donald Spoto’s The Art of Alfred Hitchcock afterward. Then I’d re-watch the film over again, etc.

Friday, January 13, 2012

VERTIGO: More than just the streets of San Francisco...

By guest contributor Michael Nazarewycz

It’s easy to take for granted a film’s location.

Some settings, of course, are mandatory to support the historical accuracy of a film; consider the importance of location in a war picture or biopic.  Other settings might not be important for historical accuracy per se, but are critical to the believability of a film.  For example, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987), title aside, never would have worked anywhere else but in New York City, given the high-finance, decade-of-decadence aspects of the story.  Beyond instances like these, though, it’s easy for filmmakers to pigeonhole movie locations into high-level descriptions like big city, sprawling country, hot resort, or cozy hamlet.

But where do you set your film when you need more than geography?  Where do you set your film when the location is less about sense of place and more about state of mind?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kim Novak in VERTIGO: A Hypnotic Presence

by guest contributor Brandie Ashe

Scratch the surface of the prototypical “Hitchcock blonde”—a cool, reserved exterior masking a fiery and determinedly passionate woman—and the subtle differences in their characterizations become more evident.  In her three films for the director, Grace Kelly’s characters are paragons of dignity, displaying a patrician façade that eventually gives way to a sizzling sexuality. Tippi Hedren’s two characters for Hitchcock have an overt veneer of sophistication that nonetheless belies an innate playfulness at the heart of each woman.  And in her three films for Hitch, Ingrid Bergman is the foreign exotic who smolders with a hint of endearing uncertainty.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Costumes of VERTIGO

by guest contributor Christian Esquevin

I don’t wear suits, and I don’t wear gray. Another thing, I don’t wear black pumps,” said Kim Novak to Edith Head, the costume designer for Vertigo. “I don’t care what she wears as long as it’s a gray suit," Hitchcock retorted when Edith reported this conversation to him. Thus began the creative tension over the costuming of Vertigo. But in a clash of opinion over the visual aspects of a Hitchcock film, Hitch always prevailed. Indeed, he had the colors already in mind along with the costume types he wanted even before pre-production for Vertigo began. Kim Novak wore the gray suit with the black pumps - her iconic look in Vertigo. “I had never had a director who was particular about the costumes, the way they were designed, the specific colors,” said Novak about Hitchcock later.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bernard Herrmann - Composer Of Haunting Music and Treacherous Dreams

by guest contributor Whistlingypsy

Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.
~ excerpt from Peter Quince at the Clavier by Wallace Stevens

"I don’t think Mozart’s going to help at all."
~ Midge in Vertigo

British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, who greatly influenced young Bernard Herrmann and for whom he had a great admiration, took the subject of film score composition seriously and in encouraging his contemporaries to do the same said, “I believe that the film contains potentialities for the combination of all the arts such as Wagner never dreamed of, and I would therefore urge those distinguished musicians who have entered the world of the cinema to realize their responsibility in helping to take the film out of the realm of hack work and make it a subject of a real composer.” Music constitutes an essential part of the film experience, yet we often fail to acknowledge its importance to the way we perceive film. This is not to say that music is comprehensible only to those who have formal training; to the contrary the ability to appreciate music is a capacity we all share. The often overlooked genius of composing for film in general, and of Bernard Herrmann specifically, is an ability to work within the parameters of music theory while exploiting the viewer's instinctive knowledge of musical conventions, creating a lush musical landscape perfectly suited to the emotional content of the image captured on film.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Deadly Obsession: Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO

by guest contributor R.D. Finch

"What's that old Oscar Wilde thing? 'Each man kills the thing he loves...' That I think is a very natural phenomenon, really."
Alfred Hitchcock, in a 1963 interview

In his fifty-five year long career in films, Alfred Hitchcock directed sixty-seven movies. At least a dozen of these are bona fide masterpieces, and about an equal number are excellent movies that fall just short of the masterpiece mark. By any measure that's an impressive record, one unequaled by any other filmmaker I can think of. Even more impressive is that Hitchcock's pictures are not rarefied works of art of interest mainly to aesthetes and film scholars, but full-blooded movies that appeal equally to ordinary filmgoers looking for accomplished entertainments and to cinephiles looking for an intellectually and artistically stimulating film-viewing experience. Of all Hitchcock's pictures, none managed to combine these two modes—entertainment and art—so skillfully, so intriguingly, and so pleasingly as his 1958 film Vertigo.