Vertigo: The Artist As A Filmmaker

Saturday, August 25, 2012

As I've mentioned before, I didn't see many contemporary films/movies in my youth. Starting at about age 10 through my 20's, I spent much of my viewing hours watching old movies, with Hitchcock's Rebecca, Marnie, Vertigo & Notorious at the top of my list of favorites.

Of course Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, an even as a child I was drawn into the eerie, mysterious, dangerous qualities of these films, but it wasn't really what fascinated me.  I most certainly didn't watch for perspective, crane shots, camera angles or filmmaking techniques. Although, I'm sure subconsciously, I responded to these aspects of the films, which we now attribute to the genius of Hitchcock.

No. both then and now, it was the style and grace of the heroine that drew me in. Their tragic, forlorn faces, all the sophistication and upscale settings. I loved that these women were so terribly flawed, qualities that made each man (Lawrence Olivier, Sean Connery, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant) fall even more wildly in love with them, enchanted from first meeting.

The Philadelphia Film Society together with The University of the Arts has been collaborating on a series entitled The Artist As A Filmmaker - highlighting world-renowned directors who transitioned their careers from visual artistry to filmmaking.

The program, which celebrates the introduction of the University's new School of Film, serves to expand the annual Philadelphia Film Festival's "Masters of Cinema" component, educating its audience on the collaboration of multiple art forms.

The first of this series that I was able to attend was Vertigo. Did you know, according to BFI (British Film Institute ), this film recently de-throned Citizen Kane of it's 50 year rein as the Best Film of All Time?

For those unfamiliar with the main plot, without giving away any twists & turns: John "Scottie" Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) is a Police Detective on leave due to a bout with vertigo; brought on by seeing a fellow officer fall from a roof, while both were in pursuit of a perpetrator.

Scottie has a female companion, an old college friend, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas) who he enjoys spending time with during his recuperation, but much to her dismay, he does not have romantic intentions toward Midge.

It's hearing from another old, college acquaintance, Gavin (Tom Helmore) that sets Scottie on a case or rather romantic escapade, which changes his life forever. 

Gavin claims that the ghost of his wife's ancestor is haunting her and taunting her to kill herself now that she's reached the age of 26, the same age when this predecessor took her own life.  Gavin hires Scottie to follow his wife, keep her safe and try to ascertain whether or not she's in need of psychiatric help.

Here's where I can't believe as a child I remained in rapt attention, because Scottie, (in I'm almost certain is first a black sedan and then a scene later a white sedan), following Gavin's wife, Madelaine (Kim Novak) around San Francisco, in and out of churches, museums, flower shops and boarding houses is done with such unhurried, deliberate pacing, you would have thought that I'd have changed the channel or fast forwarded the VCR at these points, but I never did.  It's all part of building the mystery around this elegant, sad creature with the platinum blonde coif.

Of course as the movie progresses, Scottie and Madeline fall madly for one another. Scottie believing he can save Madeline from herself and this notion of possession. However,  the draw to suicide is too great and Madeline hurls herself from a Spanish church steeple. Scottie's vertigo preventing him from being the hero. He loses her forever... or does he?

The Vertigo post screening discussion (click to watch on YouTube) was lead by Michael Wellenreiter, Director and Assistant Professor of Film/Video at the University of the Arts.

The Artist as a Filmmaker Series continues at Levitt Auditorium/ Gershman Hall (401 South Broad Street):

Wednesday, October 24; 7:30 p.m.
Lost Highway (1997); USA
Director: David Lynch 

Wednesday, November 14; 7:30 p.m.
Vagabond (1985); France
Director: Agnes Varda 

Wednesday, December 12; 7:30 p.m.
Fallen Angels (1995); Hong Kong
Director: Kar Wai Wong

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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