The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

My first time experience of Vertigo

with 10 comments

What do you do when you recognize someone in a movie but can’t remember from where and it’s starting to itch like a mosquito bite?Can you manage to suppress the thought, telling yourself that you’ll get back to it after the movie? Or will you give up, put the player on “pause” and consult IMDB to get the distraction out of the way so you can focus properly on the movie?I had one of those bug bite experiences as I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It was the character Midge (sic!) who grabbed me, the down-to-Earth friend of the ex-policeman Scottie, who we meet early on in the story, before his interest for the mystical woman Madeleine takes over and she’s dismissed without as much as a bye.

“Who is that woman with the intelligent squirrel eyes and the gentle smile? I’ve seen her somewhere! And why is it that I get the weird idea to wish she was my grandmother?”

I knew I liked her, and not just because of the unknown association. I liked her because she was way more likable than the other characters of the movie.

You know, there is something about guys, who are ruled by their genitals, and helpless women, who can’t play any other role than as the object of men’s desire, that puts me off. I wasn’t all that much into either Scottie or Madeleine, as handsome as they were as a couple. Midge wore glasses and as long as she didn’t take them off and let out her hair I knew she wouldn’t stand a chance. Not in a 1958 movie. And I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.

My thoughts about Vertigo
But let’s leave Midge aside for a while and look at the rest of Vertigo. What did I think? Did I fancy it?

I’ll disregard of all the way it has contributed to film history and inspired other film makers (I’m sure you can get that from other, more educated film writers.) When I write about movies, it’s always about what they mean to me and not to everyone else.

I also have the ambition not get too judgemental about older movies regarding outdated views on for instance gender, sexuality and race. They are what they are: children of their time and it would be rather unfair and pointless to let it destroy my enjoyment of movies that have other qualities.

As of Vertigo, it was the first time I watched it and I was fortunate enough not to know anything about the plot or the twists and turns the story takes. How I’ve managed to stay innocent and unknowing is a bit of a mystery considering its position as one of the Big Classics, but nevertheless it added a lot to my enjoyment. Hitchcock could easily manipulate me and play all tricks he wanted to; I was intrigued by the movie all the way and I never anticipated what would come next. Working as intended you could say. As much as it was a crime story, it was a psychological study, which in spite of a quite slow pace still pulled me in and engaged me.

I thought it looked pretty. The costumes are pretty, the use of colors is pretty, the setting is pretty and the people are pretty. I suppose the careful restoration they did of the movie in the mid 90s has helped a bit too. As far as I understand it, the score is considered to be brilliant as well, and while this may be true, I must admit that I felt it a little bit too invasive at times for my taste. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear what it tried to tell me.

All in all it was a good movie, and while I don’t feel comfortable to give it the almost mandatory 5/5 rating quite yet, I have the feeling that I might do it at some point in the future. I imagine that it’s the kind of movie that you can watch several times and that will grow each time and finally become like a good old friend.

The itch
Finally: the itch. I have to get back to that before this review is complete.

I resisted the urge to scratch this time. After I had finished watching, I proceeded with the documentary “Obsessed with Vertigo”, which mainly is about the restoration project (quite interesting by the way, well worth to see.) And there she was wrinkled as I’m used to see her, but with the same sparkling eyes and the kind smile: Barbara Bel Geddes. Miss Ellie! Of course! The matriarch of Southfork, Dallas! I should have known.

It was great to see her again. Kim Novak may have been the sexiest one. I can’t tell, I’m not a man. But Barbara Bel Geddes won my heart.

Vertigo  (Alfred Hitchcock, US, 1958)  My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

September 5, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Vertigo

10 Responses

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  1. One of my 20 “Essential Films” for good reason. It’s a wonderful, dark, amazing film.

    Corey Atad

    September 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

    • You’re not alone; I think most movie lovers are with you and I’m in the minority. Mind you, I thought it was really good, but it’s not one of my top 20s. But who knows, perhaps it will become that one day? Maybe I just need to digest it a bit further and then pay it a few revisits.

      Jessica

      September 5, 2011 at 8:09 am

      • I’ve heard from quite a few people that it took at least two viewings to really feel the depth of the film at work. I’m not totally sue why, because it became a favourite for me upon first viewing, before I even realized it was considered one of Hitchcock’s very best. But I think that Vertigo does have a certain level of expectation attached to it being both a Hitchcock film AND supposedly his “masterpiece”, a film that rises above his other work thematically. Balancing those expectations can be tricky. Watching a film and purposely trying to find that stuff can alter the perception of that film. Maybe that’s why my watching it with no expectations was an incredible experience, but for others it often takes a couple viewings before the effect of expectations goes away and the movie becomes enjoyable purely on its own terms.

        I’m glad you enjoyed the film at the very least. There’s no doubt that my love of it is quite personal. It really hits home in ways that are maybe not too flattering. (Not unlike 500 Days of Summer, which I talked to you about in relation to Vertigo before.)

        Corey Atad

        September 5, 2011 at 4:56 pm

        • Aye. I liked your comparsion to 500 Days of Summer, if nothing else it was a new and interesting idea. 🙂 But we’ve talked about it on the forum previously. I too think it can grow with several viewings. Now that I’ve gotten the plot thing and the twists out of the way I could focus more on details.

          Jessica

          September 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  2. Nicely written post here – strikes a lovely balance between a full on review, and a first-timer’s reflection. Lookin’ forward to skimming through your site to find more of the same, you have yourself a new follower here!

    Ryan McNeil

    September 6, 2011 at 12:44 am

    • Hello there and thank you for your kind words! Your comment lured me over to your blog, which I hadn’t encountered before, and all I can say is: “wow!” It’s absolutely stunning. And I’m not only talking about the looks. While they’re wonderful, I’m more interested in the content, and you certainly have it, proving that a high volume doesn’t rule out high quality. You have both. Consider yourself stalked from now on!

      Jessica

      September 6, 2011 at 7:36 am

  3. Aww shucks – thanks for that! Made coming back to work this morning much more palatable to start the day with such a complimentary email.

    Stalk away to your heart’s content – I’ll be doing the same. And since I can see that you’re a fan of podcasts, perhaps you’ll find mine fit to start listening to as well.

    Ryan McNeil

    September 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    • I’ve downloaded a couple of episodes, trying it out now. Seems relaxed and nice with a good balance – neither too mainstream, nor too snobbish. ❤

      Jessica

      September 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  4. You’re right not to give this the “mandatory 5/5.” Vertigo is absolutely an important film in Hitchcock’s canon, and perhaps in film canon overall, but how well has it aged? If you ask me, I’d suggest it has not aged nearly as well as Hitchcock’s other “great” films like North by Northwest, The Birds, and Read Window.

    The Midge character is tragically underused. With the glasses on and her motherly tendencies, she simply isn’t dangerous enough to fly in a movie like this one. Had I been Scottie, this film would have never happened–I’d have done what I could to get back with Midge and her underpants drawings.

    SJHoneywell

    November 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    • I’m glad to meet another Midge fan. Cheers! It’s so strange the way she disappears out of the movie also, isn’t it? She just… fades away half through. I hope she found a better guy, someone who deserved her.

      Jessica

      November 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm


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