Please allow me to take a stab at a scene that’s been unfolding in my head ever since the Sight & Sound list deemed Vertigo the best film of all time…
INT. SIGHT & SOUND OFFICE – NIGHT TIME
NIGEL and CHARLES enter the darkened office in late June, 2012. They are both very drunk and stumble around as they attempt to find the light switch and their respective office spaces.
NIGEL: Why’s the bloody rub-a-dub have to close so EARLY?
CHARLES: Oh, Nigel, you know they always close that time of day. Sorry that bird I was chatting with wasn’t interested in the ol’… wait a tick, I might be Stevie Wonder…
NIGEL (reacting to email): Bollocks! Charles, quit f***ing about and come over here! The pitch and toss wants that damned top films list by tomorrow day’s dawning!
CHARLES: He’s balmy, without a Brussels sprout, mate…
NIGEL: Well, we can’t simply put Citizen Kane in Geoff Hurst again, now can we?
CHARLES: Bly me! Where’d me tiddly wink go?
NIGEL: Charles, we’re not in the nuclear sub anymore. Wake up, mate! Which film will we put tip top, then, hey?
CHARLES: I’ve got it… Why not that film by that native New Yorker Hitchcock? The silly one with Jack Stewart fumbling about –
NIGEL: You mean Vertigo! Oh, that’s lemon tart that is, Charles! Let me get my aristotle of needle and pin and we’ll get started!
Both men start laughing without control, falling out of their chairs. Please see the following link for a translation of the dialogue above:
So what’s the point here? I feel like the list is really rather pretentious and it does more to hurt than help. There, I said it. The list was obviously assembled by a bunch of critics and professors who are trying to out-intellectualize each other. I mean, look at this… you’re telling me I should watch Veritgo before E.T.? I should rent Breathless before Wizard of Oz? Oh, and I should take in Ordet before Pulp Fiction, huh? In who’s world?!? Again, the world of intellectuals, critics and film snobs: so, my suggestion is to take this list for what it is.
Now on to Vertigo – and believe me, I’ll keep this brief because I am not – repeat NOT – recommending you watch this film. Recently, I’ve read articles by Roger Ebert and Owen Gleiberman that discuss Vertigo better than I might. Seeing as it was airing on cable, I even made myself re-watch it, figuring maybe I missed something the first time I saw it years ago. But I’ll put it this way: I’d recommend Hitchcock’s Lifeboat before I’d recommend Vertigo. I’d do a cartwheel if you’d see Rope before Vertigo. Even The 39 Steps should be viewed before this so-called #1. Never heard of any of these titles? Don’t let that discourage you if you haven’t! Regardless, here are some of the huge issues I had with ol’ Vertigo:
1) How does James Stewart’s Scottie character survive the first scene? HOW!?! Isn’t that kind of important?
2) How, in any way, am I supposed to buy the fact that Stewart is playing a detective? He’s playing Jimmy Stewart brilliantly, but a veteran San Francisco police detective who’s seen it all? No, I…. I think not.
3) How engaging is the “action” of a detective tailing a mark? It can be extremely interesting – see Bullitt, Internal Affairs, French Connection or 50 other films first – but watching Stewart ramble around San Francisco with that look on his face that says, “I know I’m playing a detective, but I really don’t feel like I know where I’m going, even though there is exactly one (1) off-green Rolls Royce in this entire town!” And then we watch this “action” for many, many screen minutes…. What a great time to hit the restroom or call home or try that recipe you’ve been meaning to make!
4) Kim Novak’s Madeleine Ester supposedly kicks the bucket midway through the film, right? Are you telling me that Scottie wouldn’t have insisted on seeing the body? Sure, because that makes sense with his obsession over this lady so far, right? That he’d just forget the whole thing and show up to court makes total sense! Actually, wait a minute…. NONE of that makes sense.
5) Finally – and let’s be clear that there are more issues with this little movie that I don’t have time to cover – let’s consider the fact that this Judy Barton, who was “playing” Madeleine earlier in the movie, stays in San Francisco. A woman who agrees to play the part of someone else for money is probably a con artist right? After pulling a big ol’ score, do con artists usually just dye their hair and take a job at the nearby department store? No, actually, they usually move away. Far away. Not Judy! Hmmmmmm.
Please do yourself a favor and see Citizen Kane if you’ve never seen it: it’s an incredibly sweet treat to watch. There are fifty layers to its cake. And if you want to watch a good Hitchcock or two, please see Psycho and/or Rear Window (both covered here already on ronhamprod.com) or some of the titles I list above. If you like, get a cheap copy of Vertigo and put it on your DVD or Blu Ray shelf – and then let it collect dust. When one of your intellectual, film snob friends comes over, they’ll have the satisfaction that you have it in your collection and that must mean that you’re really really smart – and you’ll have the satisfaction of never having seen the bloody movie.