Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’: The Unrelenting Male Gaze that Blurs the Lines Between Possession and Obsession

“It is no secret that the late Alfred Hitchcock was—and still is—not only one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, but also the ‘Master of Suspense.’ After having started his career as a silent film title designer and art director, the London-born auteur had his directorial debut with the 1925 (silent) movie The Pleasure Garden and subsequently went on to make a number of films that would, after a mere few shots, become instantly recognizable as his. Dramatic shadows, unpredictable visual revelations and odd camera angles were all part of his repertoire, with the narrative of wrongfully accused people becoming a pervasive one throughout his career. … One of them is, of course, the 1959 noir Vertigo (with the other three being Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960)). But the now-adored film was not always considered one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces, quite the contrary. Upon Vertigo’s release, critics were nowhere near impressed with the screenplay, finding the story unconvincing and farfetched, and audiences were not on board with either the mystery being resolved two-thirds into the movie or with watching Jimmy Stewart in a role very much unlike those they were used to seeing him in, such as that of J.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies in Rear Window and Dr. Ben McKenna in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)—in both cases, viewers were quick to side with the main characters, which is not something that could be said for Stewart’s John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson in Vertigo, who made them feel all sorts of ambiguous ways. On top of that, the creation of suspense that Hitchcock’s films became so known for was not the primary driving force of Vertigo, leaving audiences baffled and confused. But with the passing of time, the director’s misunderstood gem finally got the recognition it had deserved all along—in 1982, Vertigo entered the list of the ten greatest movies of all time published in the British Film Institute’s magazine called Sight & Sound, and came in seventh place. …”
Cinephilia Beyond (Video)
W – Vertigo

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