Monday, March 1, 2010


What new thing can be said about Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)? If it is not Hitchcock's best film, it is certainly his most written-about and commented upon film. I am sure that is engendered by both its strangeness and its apparently personal nature. Surely something meant to be a mere entertainment would not need to be this twisted and perverse. The viewer feels that Hitchcock must be trying to tell us something, whether he means to or not.

I will confine myself to a couple of observations and random thoughts that this latest viewing in Film Studies inspired. First, having seen Rope just this past fall, I noted what seems to have been an aesthetic doodle, an unfulfilled impulse in that film, his first in color. There is a use of color reflected from neon signs outside the apartment which is the entire mise-en-scene of the film. It suggests the intrusion of the outside world and the garishness of the color suggests an air of sickness which has pervaded the principal characters. But it never really pays off--it feels like a flourish.

Whereas in Vertigo, the conversion of Judy into Madeleine is consistently signaled by the reflection of the green neon outside of Judy's hotel window. Coupled with a strange white light, when Madeleine finally reappears, she seems to have emerged from the world of the dead. I wonder if Hitchcock would have arrived at that idea without the half-experiment in Rope.

My other thought is literally perverse. The air is full of remakes of Hitchcock films and reworking of his ideas. Nearly all of Brian DePalma's career is based on reworking of Hitchcock. DePalma even literally reworked Vertigo as Obsession, also featuring a Bernard Herrmann score. This is just silly. Why say what's already been said?

My concept is to layer ideas of gender identity onto Vertigo. A man falls in love with a woman who dies before his eyes. Then he meets a transvestite, who we learn (but he does not) IS the woman he fell in love with. When the man learns his lover is a man, he pressures him to get transgender surgery. Of course it's weird, but it preserves Hitchcock's central conceit, that the person you fall in love with may just be a person in your own head. Maybe I can sell it to HBO. Whaddaya think?

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