Vertigo

I’m going to be embarrassingly honest right now. I did not give this movie my full attention because I was a little too involved with a Twitter hashtag game. Search #HigherStakesChildrensBooks. You’ll see why it was so entertaining.

But of course I had to watch Vertigo! Not only is it set in San Francisco and filmed all around the Bay Area and in Monterey, but it also plays in and is the inspiration for one of my favorite bars in the city. Despite having seen scenes playing on a loop in said bar (and probably throughout my life), I had never actually sat through this Jimmy Stewart-Kim Novak special. And special it was, indeed, though I think I’ll benefit from a second viewing someday.

The main impression I was left with was how talented Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak were. I am more familiar with Stewart’s work, having seen several other Hitchcock films, and up until this one I hadn’t been blown away by his acting. Sure, he played the aw-shucks everyman to a T, but I had never seen him do anything like what he did in Vertigo. And in this movie, he and Kim Novak have to stretch their ranges to their limits; Stewart played a methodical, possessive man who slowly went insane, and Novak played a woman who was already insane and may have had multiple personality disorder. There was a lot of physical acting in this movie, too, many physical expressions of pain and suffering that seemed to take a bit of an emotional toll on the actors, but it was all so superbly done that it was hard not to be in awe of them.

But downsides? One, this is not a movie to watch when you’re distracted. It’s confusing. I’m still not sure who was fake and who was real—and that’s my fault. Also, love scenes in the 50’s were lame. I’m sorry. But one advantage of modern-day is the entertainment leniency (well, relatively speaking). Stewart and Novak were mouth-kissing; that is, their mouths sort of rubbed up against each other, but that was it. It was unappealing. And while I love Alfie Hitchcock’s scene composition, with the reaction shots and the symbolic prop shots and everything, John Ferguson’s bad dream sequence, with the spirals and the colors and stuff… that reminded me of something out of Willy Wonka. A little much.

In any case, this movie is as historic as it is well done, and it’s a definite must-see for Bay Area residents. Check out the bar while you’re at it, too.

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