There are many gaps in my filmic knowledge, but the one that's always bothered me the most is Hitchcock's Vertigo. It has all the obvious hallmarks of his best work -blondes, mystery, adultery- and also includes the consistently dumbfounding Jimmy Stewart. Add in a couple of favourable comparisons to Mulholland Drive and you've got me salivating like Pavlov before he eats a dog. And today, I'm happy to report, a gap has been plugged. Vertigo, without a shadow of a doubt, is notoriously spellbinding: Hitchcock's most nuanced, rapturous and disturbing work I've had the pleasure of laying eyes upon.
Where to begin? The duality of Kim Novak's alternately arming and disarming performance is staggering, Stewart's another variation on his everyman theme - only this time an obsessed, lusty everyman with an astute case of acrophobia. This picture easily transcends his earlier conventions, and deliberately so, overridingly less concerned with the MacGuffin and more with primal human monomania. Bluntly, we are Hitch's bitch. Spliced moments of psychedelic brevity, a feverously unsettling use of colour, and fourth wall not as much broken as it mercilessly bulldozed. We are given knowledge, then robbed of it. Put on a steady footing; then flung into the San Francisco Bay.
But, hey, don't take my word for it. Let Saul Bass tease you.
And if that's not one of cinema's greatest openings, I'm all a muddle as to what is.