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The 10 films you can’t miss at BAM Cinemas’ ‘The Vertigo Effect’

C. Mason Wells, co-curator of the haunting new series at BAM, tells us about his favorite titles

Written by
Time Out Film
David Ehrlich

When Alfred Hitchcock’s 1957 masterpiece Vertigo dethroned Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in the most recent edition of Sight & Sound’s once-a-decade poll, the news didn’t come as a surprise. Although considered a misfire on its initial release, Vertigo has since come to exert a hypnotic hold over filmmakers and audiences alike, and its grip only seems to be growing stronger. As IFC Center’s C. Mason Wells put it in Time Out New York’s most recent issue, “Vertigo never fully reveals its mysteries and seems to dematerialize once you think you’ve finally got your arms around it. It’s maddening and keeps crazy people like me coming back for more.” 

Wells has teamed up with BAM to co-curate “The Vertigo Effect,” an unprecedented retrospective that explores the legacy of Hitchcock’s classic through the medium it helped define. Running Fri 16–Apr 30 at BAM, the series is stuffed with an overwhelming number of great films. To help make the most of the next two weeks, we asked Wells to pick his ten favorite titles and explain their connection to Hitchcock’s dizzyingly dense classic.

Visit BAM’s site for more info.

Bell, Book and Candle
  • Movies

Vertigo wasn't the only 1957 movie to star Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak: After filming for Hitchcock, they reteamed for the perpetually underrated Richard Quine in this charming comic romance. Novak again casts a spell on Stewart, although this time literally—she plays a witch. It offers the rare opportunity to look at the chemistry between these two stars from a whole new perspective.”

Apr 26 at 4:30, 9:30pm

In the City of Sylvia
  • Movies

“Director José Luis Guerín pushes Vertigo’s male gaze to its extreme in his tale of a young artist looking (and looking and looking) around summery Strasbourg for a former flame. Beautifully composed and slyly witty, this festival favorite received only a minimal stateside release, so this rare imported print is not to be missed.”

Apr 20 at 9:30pm
The Joy of Life
  • Movies

“Filmmaker Jenni Olson is a fellow Vertigo obsessive. She presents her own haunting riff on lost love and suicide in San Francisco. Filmed on 16mm in a series of stunningly framed tableaux, this essay film is incredibly expansive considering its brief running time, combining analysis of queer identity, poetry and film history into a mesmerizing whole. She’ll be there in person to help us unpack it.”

Apr 24 at 7:30pm

La Captive
  • Movies

“Director Chantal Akerman has called Vertigo ‘a film about fetishism—that is, on not seeing the other person, making them an extension of yourself, reducing and denying them to feed your own anxieties.’ Her adaptation of Proust's La Prisonniere is just as much a riff on Vertigo, tracking a possessive young dandy's suffocating affection for his live-in girlfriend.”

Apr 19 at 5pm

Last Embrace
  • Movies
  • Thriller

“Another portrait of a man haunted by the death of a lover. After his wife's murder, government agent Roy Scheider cracks up and becomes convinced he's next. Like Mel Brooks's High Anxiety, this is a veritable cavalcade of Hitchcockian tropes, but director Jonathan Demme transcends mere homage with his trademark feeling for character and place.”

Apr 17 at 2, 7pm

Perversion Story
  • Movies

“An arrogant doctor with a mistress becomes the primary suspect when his asthmatic wife turns up dead. Italy's giallo thrillers lifted many of their central ideas straight from Hitchcock, but few films in the genre are more obvious in their borrowing than this early work from maestro Lucio Fulci. Made just a decade after Vertigo, this has sexual obsession, an actress in two roles, even a San Francisco setting, but it's a whole new world in the swinging '60s.”

Apr 21 at 9:15pm

Portrait of Jennie
  • Movies

“We thought it was important this series didn't just track Vertigo’s many imitators, but to also trace its antecedents. Director William Dieterle's expressionistic 1948 romance appeared a full decade before Vertigo’s release, and its parallels to Hitchcock's vision are too clear to ignore, from the basic plot (a man's obsesses over a woman who may already be dead) to its belltower-staircase scene.”

Apr 27 at 7pm

  • Movies

“Ernie Gehr's 40-minute structuralist masterpiece is both a love letter to and a deconstruction of the City by the Bay. He positions his camera in a San Francisco glass elevator as it moves up and down, playfully capturing the buildings, passersby and hilly streets from multiple vantage points. Seeing the city from such great heights may just give you a feeling of, well, you know.”

Apr 22 at 7:15pm

Special Effects
  • Movies

“This lacerating self-portrait from modern cinema's great subversive, Larry Cohen, takes the meta undertones of Vertigo and makes them explicit: A flailing film director, playwright Eric Bogosian in his screen debut, beds and kills a young blond actress—Zoe Lund, Ms. 45 herself—all while the cameras roll. He tries to cover up his crime by—how else?—turning it into a movie, casting a look-alike—Lund again—to play the lead.”

Apr 29 at 5, 9:30pm

Sugar Cookies
  • Movies

David Lynch made a sapphic Vertigo variation with 2001’s Mulholland Drive, but he was beaten to the punch nearly three decades earlier by this gleefully prurient piece of '70s NYC sleaze. It boasts quite the creative team: a young Oliver Stone as coproducer, Moog innovator Gershon Kingsley as composer, and scream queen Lynn Lowry (Shivers) and Warhol factory regular Mary Woronov as stars.”

Apr 28 at 7pm

Watch the trailer for “The Vertigo Effect”

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