The Green Fog (2017) is a mind-bending walk through the iconic narrative arc of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Commissioned for the closing night of the 2017 San Francisco Film Festival, director Guy Maddin (with co-directors Galen Johnson and Evan Johnson) pays a wonderfully subversive tribute to Hitchcock’s San Francisco-centric film by stitching together footage from movies and tv shows filmed in the Bay Area. Through the scrim of cut up and reworked scenes, the emotional peaks and valleys of Vertigo’s plot materialize. However, this approach never turns into a trivia game for cinephiles. Indeed, a particularly precocious cineast could spend the entirety of The Green Fog recalling the classic films that appear on screen (over 100 in total), pulling each title from the recesses of her mind. However, in traditional Maddin fashion, a more conceptual and active level of movie watching is required.
Vertigo (1958) remains the top contender for the best film of Hitchcock’s impressive oeuvre. In the film, John “Scottie” Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) suffers from vertigo after pursuing a robber over rooftops and plummeting nearly to his death. After his near-fatal accident, he is hired to investigate Madeline (Kim Novak), the wife of an old college friend, who is acting strange, almost possessed. As Ferguson pursues Madeline, he not only saves her from drowning, but ultimately falls in love with her. But his vertigo prevents him from saving her life a second time when she appears to throw herself from a church tower. The second half of the film follows Ferguson as he recovers from a mental breakdown and meets Judy, a woman with such a striking resemblance to Madeline (Judy is also played by Kim Novak) that Ferguson becomes obsessed and remakes her in Madeline’s image.
I never lose interest in the work of my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. His films hold up under repeated scrutiny. They feel as fresh on the fifteenth viewing as they do on the first. As I have written elsewhere, Hitchcock’s smaller efforts are superior to the greatest efforts of other directors. The might be said of Woody Allen’s work. Both directors became such masters of their craft that they could elevate even an apparently minor story to the realm of the sublime.
During his decades-long reign as Hollywood’s Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock had made a number of classic films. If you were to point to any film within Hitch’s career, I’m sure you would find at least a small pocket of the film community declaring it his best (save for perhaps THE PARADINE CASE). But if any film deserves to sit on the Iron Throne of the Hitchcock oeuvre, it is the magnetic and mystifying VERTIGO.
Vertigo – 1958 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock
I never get tired of talking about Alfred Hitchcock; he is my favorite director. His movies bear up under repeated scrutinies. They appear as fresh and as new on the 10th or 15th viewing as they do on the first. As I have said before — the least effort by Hitchcock is far superior to the best effort of a lesser director (same with Woody Allen). Both men became masters of their craft such that they are able to elevate even a slight storyline into the world of the sublime. Do you agree with me, or do you?
Vertigo – 1959 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Upon its release in 1958, Vertigo was neither a critical nor a popular success. It was, in fact, a bomb. Small wonder; it tackled taboo themes not discussed in the sanctity of people’s homes much less on the silver screen: sexual obsession, reincarnation, mental illness, dark desires. Today, it is regarded not only as Alfred Hitchcock’s finest film but also one of the best films ever made.
Universal, 1958 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The great French director René Clair once remarked that moviegoers, as they sit in the darkness watching a film, enter into a “dreamlike state”; and over the years, many great directors, from Melies to Bunuel to Fellini to Lynch have aided in that process by gleefully plunging their viewers into the human dreamscape. But no film has ever so straightforwardly, simply, and seductively taken on the actual form and structure of dreaming than Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. From its first throbbing arpeggios, Bernard Herrman’s brilliant score carries us, with the impatience of a dream, from ominous threat, to lush, romantic calm, to tense confrontation, to resolution… and back to fear again, as the late great Saul Bass’ credits likewise dissolve from the glorious Black and White of Kim Novak’s absurdly lush lips and tear-welling eyes, to the rich VistaVision color of Bass’ iconic spiraling motifs, culminating in an extreme, Psycho-presaging close-up of one terrified eye. With its disorienting changes in mood, color and visuals, this brief and brilliant credit sequence leaves no doubt: We are entering the ever-shifting, primal world of the dream.