Vertigo (1958)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Alec Coppel & Samuel Taylor

Last week when I entered the theater to see Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, I did not entirely know what to expect other than my expectations were high for an amazing experience like I had not experienced before, and that is what I received. So now last night when I sat down in the theater for a film I had seen before i was excited for my senses to be assaulted like they were not before when I watched the film at home on a small television with basic sound. There is definitely something about being in a theater with the huge screen and theater sound which makes the experience of any movie better.

After an unfortunate accident where police detective John Ferguson (James Stewart) experienced the death of a colleague from the top of a building during a chase, it is discovered that John has vertigo, prompting him to retire from the profession. Now he just wanders and hangs out with old flame and long time friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). But soon an old college friends calls him with a job: follow his wife Madeline (Kim Novak), for she has been acting strange lately. Ferguson soon discovers the woman to be suicidal, much like her alter ego, an young woman from 1800s San Francisco. After saving her life in the Bay, Ferguson and Madeline develop a romance which is ill fated from the start.

I saw this film a year or two ago and was amazed at the craft of Hitchcock and the type of finished product he could deliver, yet after this viewing on the big screen, I feel a whole new level of appreciation not just for Hitch, but for Vertigo and the whole idea of a theater experience. The visuals were arresting, and the sound amazing. The performances, locations, and moments were larger than life and popped off the screen like some sort of cinematic bliss I have been missing my whole life. I never realized just how beautiful of a film this was until last night. I could frame the entire movie and hang it on my wall and be proud, and I cannot say that of too many films. But the amazing score pushed everything over the top. I never never would have remembered this score, yet last night brought it fresh to my ears with great theater sound. Truly one of the great scores I have heard. And I mean James Stewart is one of my favorites, and he should be yours too.

A film experience like this makes me wonder what I can be missing with so many other films. How many new films that I see in theaters do I wrongly place over older classics I have only ever seen on my “26 television in the basement with just the built in tv speakers? I completely believe that my experience last night proves that film is meant for the big screen and will never die because of it. Seeing a film at home is nice, convenient and friendly for get togethers, but nothing can truly substitute for the theater setting, unless of course you have a theater at home, but not everyone is so fortunate. What would Days of Heaven be like on the big screen? Or my favorite film Forrest Gump? It is a delight just to imagine that the real thing is unfathomable.

And moving back to Vertigo, I think the past two weeks have proven what I have always known in my mind: Alfred Hitchcock is the Alfred Hitchcock of Alfred Hitchcock’s. There is a reason he is often called the best director ever, because he truly is. He has such control of the camera and the way he wants to tell a story and this film really proves it. I would have to say that after the first climax the film loses a lot of its steam, but the first part of this film is some of the most tense and seemingly perfectly crafted filmmaking ever made. The mystery of Madeline and ultimately the MacGuffin are brilliant and enough to carry the entire film. If anything it is not the plot twist that slows the film down, but the extension of a romance which we have already seen. The mental state of the characters is intriguing and Hitch keeps up his steady camera hand, but I must say the second part of the film is somewhat a let down after witnessing the first. Which is simply to say that most would marvel at the second part even if the first had never been made.

Do yourself a favor: catch Hitchcock on the big screen. I can only imagine how I will respond next week when I get a chance to see Rear Window in such a setting.

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