Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

you can learn from:

Vertigo (1958)

Judy: Dearest Scottie ... and so you've found me. This is the moment I dreaded and hoped for -- wondering what I would say and do if ever I saw you again, I wanted so to see you again. Just once. Now I'll go and you can give up your search. 
I want you to have peace of mind. You've nothing to blame yourself for. You were the victim. I was the tool, you were the victim of a man's plan to murder his wife. He chose me to play the part because I looked like her; he dressed me up like her. 
He was quite safe because she lived in the country and rarely came to town. He chose you to be the witness. The Carlotta story was part real, part invented to make you testify that Madeleine wanted to kill herself. He knew of your illness; he knew you would never get up the stairs of the tower. He planned it so well; he made no mistakes. 
I made the mistake. I fell in love. That wasn't part of the plan. I'm still in love with you, and I want you so to love me. If I had the nerve, I would stay and lie, hoping that I could make you love me again, as I am for myself... and so forget the other and forget the past. But I haven't the nerve to try...
I can't even begin to express how much this scene smack-dab in the center of Vertigo has taught me about storytelling - where Hitchcock tears the rug out from under his own mystery, throws all of his cards down on the table, and says "Nothing that you've been watching this movie for up until now matters in the slightest." It's the barest expression of his entire "Macguffin" concept - here is where Madeline was born, and here is where she died, and we should take no notice of any of that because the movie's not about that shit at all. How Hitch got a studio to let him take this risk I'll never understand, and it took fifty some odd years to pay off since the film was a flop and it only recently really got its rightful critical canonical status. 

Anyway the scene works for a lot of reasons but it'd be pretty hokey to pretend that a hefty percentage of it doesn't pop right off of the screen because of Kim Novak's performance - torn between the cool artifice of Madeline and the passionate loose-sweatered soul of Judy, she wavers back and forth between the two over the course of the scene -  stroking Madeline's dress, arching a wanton, defiant brow - giving us both women all at once. She she turns and looks straight into the camera in that first shot and there it all is - everything we need to know before she's even said it.

A happy happy 85th birthday to Kim Novak today.
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2 comments:

Steve A said...

Need to re-watch this somber film. Visually striking and complex- now I have to go beyond the surface and have another look.
Thanks

Shawn McGuire said...

Is there something in the phallic tower that hitch was making sexual innuendo? The first scene involving the tower has someone rush up the stairs and the body is ejected out like an orgasm. But Jimmy Stewart can’t make it up the tower. An image of impotence. Then at the end, she is ejected out of the phallic tower having had a nun scare her. But Jimmy stands out at the tip unable to move, but having conquered his vertigo. The very first shot is of a male hand gripping a horizontal bar. I think Vertigo is really about male impotence.