Sunday, April 23, 2017

Getting VERTIGO Again

Live action. Animation. Long meaningful scenes with no dialogue.  Erotic obsession.  I wish I was describing my love life of the last few years, but I'm not.  I watched the Alfred Hitchcock classic, VERTIGO, again recently.  My brother gave me a DVD of it for Christmas.  In a way, this movie is a look at what happens when really good beauty makeovers go bad.  James Stewart is the psychologically handicapped police detective in San Francisco who falls in love with a cool mysterious blonde played by Kim Novak.
If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about here.  This movie is secrets, mysteries, passion, recreation and repair.  When I watched it recently, Hitchcock hooked me in again.  VERTIGO had my full attention.  I didn't play it while I multi-tasked.  I let social media go.  I didn't check my phone for text messages.  I didn't make calls.  I did, however, notice something that I'd never noticed before in all the times I've seen it.  You know that VERTIGO has a strong floral motif running through the story.  When the cop first sees the blonde, they're in a posh restaurant.  A floral display decorates the scene.
 There's a flower in the shot with her as she gracefully exits the restaurant.
When the detective follows her to a deluxe San Francisco department store, he sees her purchase a colorful bouquet.  She seems to be at the center of vibrant, colorful flowers.
The flowers become part of her identity and allure.  The flowers also come to be a symbol of the eroticism in the detective's attraction to her.  Notice that the floral motif even carries over to a bedspread in a key scene.
What I had not noticed before in the composition of scenes was that the floral motif starts earlier in the drama.  It starts with the brainy "gal pal" played by Barbara Bel Geddes.  She and the cop are friends and have been for some time.  There was a brief romantic union in the relationship.  However, he's come to describe her personality as "motherly."  She, we can see, still has romantic feelings for him.  But he will never have the passionate feelings for her that he develops for the elegant, mysterious, beautiful blonde.  Notice the flowers in Midge's apartment.  They're all pale, like the top half of her wardrobe.
Midge's flowers reflect the state of their relationship.  They are friends.  Buddies.  In his mind, almost like relatives.  In a way, Scottie (James Stewart) has gotten used to her and she sorts of blends into the San Francisco background.  She doesn't stand out to him romantically and sexually the way the desirable blonde Madeleine (Kim Novak) does.
The flowers in 1958's VERTIGO.  What a brilliant bit of detail that adds to the overall psychological complexity of this mystery/love story.  It just goes to show you that you can discover new things about classics you've seen several times already -- if you're paying full attention, that is.

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