You can’t fall in love twice with the same woman, nor with the same movie. (Staying in love: a completely different matter.) So to those of you who have never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s voluptuous romantic thriller—a circumstance that can be remedied this week at Film Forum—allow us a little envy. For these lucky viewers, the free fall begins now. It starts on a San Francisco rooftop, the edge of which detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) clings to for life, while another cop plunges to his death. Our hero then dives further into the husky blondness of Madeleine (Kim Novak, an iconic turn), who might be unwell. And still, the bottom is nowhere in sight.
That’s about all you need to know beforehand of Hitchcock’s most tender story. (Go in openhearted.) Many other fans, of course, have kept up an affair with Vertigo for years; it’s a movie about memory that actually improves the more you go over its folds. This time, I noticed a masterful symmetry: Scottie, quietly on the case, follows Madeleine into the hazy, greenish sunlight of a cemetery. Later, she’ll emerge from yet another green haze, a neon light, walking out of death’s grip into his arms. Do directors even think about things like that anymore?
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew
Barbara Bel Geddes