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Vertigo: seeing is not believing

I watched Vertigo again recently – perhaps for the third or fourth time. It reminded me of being puzzled by the film when I first saw it years ago – it is, on the surface, a trashy movie adapted from a trashy French thriller called ‘Between Two Deaths’ – a barely credible shaggy dog story that is saturated with cod psychology about agoraphobia. Nowadays James Stewart’s Scotty would probably have been diagnosed with PTSD given his unfortunate association with violent deaths. I probably first watched a mediocre, dilapidated print that would have inevitably blurred the astonishing visual genius of Hitchcock’s work which is exhibited in this film more than any other in his very uneven catalogue – and the work of the picture and sound restorers has to be recognized as truly remarkable. But it is paradoxical. The impact of the clean up is to expose Hitchcock’s remarkably stylised and anti naturalist design that makes full use of resplendent colour symbolism and recurrent visual leitmotifs that are deepened and echoed with thrilling brilliance in Bernard Hermann’s score. Hermann, who wrote the score of ‘Citizen Kane’, perfectly understood I suspect the intention of the film, which I believe is to dramatize […]
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