I wrote the post below in 2008 when the film community was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vertigo. Now the cinephile community is a chatter at the news that Hitchcock's Doppelganger fantasy has pushed Orson Welles's fake bio pic of Citizen Kane out of the #1 spot in Sight & Sound's every 10 year "what's the greatest film conscensus a la critics" where it has been since the poll started in 1952.
And there was much explicating.
Roger Ebert: The king is dead. Long live the king. Welles' "Citizen Kane" has been dethroned from the Sight & Sound list of the greatest films of all time, and replaced by Hitchcock's "Vertigo." It's not as if nobody saw this coming.
Nick James, S&S editor: Vertigo is the ultimate critics’ film because it is a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soul mate.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: My own theory is that Vertigo's rise in esteem coincides with academic critical fascination with female sexuality and the male "gaze". The world is ruled by men; they see what they want to see, and the visibility and comprehensibility of women's emotional lives are constructed by the male observer: Stewart's agonised cop Scottie thinks a beautiful woman is the reincarnation of another. How irrational is he being?
I've never found Jimmy Stewart's ensorcellment very appealing here nor his manipulation of the object of his obsession, I mean poor Judy Barton. But there is no dishonor to Welles's artistry for Hitchcock to take the top spot.
My little connection to the new "greatest film ever":
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The film community is bidding 50th anniversary wishes to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which opened on May 9, 1958. It isn’t one of my favorite Hitchcock, which include Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, To Catch a Thief, and Rear Window. But in 1995 I visited Robert Harris and James Katz at their offices on the Universal Studios lot. They were deeply into the restoration of Vertigo, and one of Novak’s original suits was hanging on the door as part of their color exploration.
We had an interesting lunch, and Harris gave me 6 frames from the Interneg they had made from the original film for their restoration work. I always felt a little guilty about this, since Vertigo isn’t one of my favorites. But I had it framed in an archival shadow-box method to display, and over time I have become very attached it to.
The photo above is from my frames: Madeleine at the foot of Golden Gate Bridge where she attempts suicide. Even in its 1” x 1 ½ “ size, it is stunning. I have my shadow box in a window nook, so that the diffused light will illuminate it. In the morning those fifty-year-old clouds look like Magritte, and the solitary iconic silhouette of the woman is endlessly engaging and haunting.
All that film history, captured on the proverbial celluloid, removed from its sprockets and appreciated as the art it is on the Upper West Side.