Monday, 22 November 2010

Study of a Single Film: Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

Roundtable discussion at the Philoctetes Center, New York, on November 6, 2010, with Richard Allen, John Belton, Joe McElhaney, Edward Neresessian, and Brigitte Peucker

Vertigo (1958) is the Hitchcock film in which the confusion of ontological registers—of reality with illusion—takes center stage. Indeed, it’s a case study of someone for whom this confusion is nearly pathological. The James Stewart character, Scottie, is duped by a performance with criminal intent, as he falls for a woman he believes to be Madeleine, but who in reality is a woman named Judy (played by Kim Novak) perpetrating a masquerade. Around this “false” Madeleine, a narrative is created that's designed to ensnare Scottie. The film concerns a mysterious case of “possession”—a staged fascination with death—played out in a series of silent tableaux, each of which aestheticizes and eroticizes the Madeleine figure. The film's narrative structure is circular and repetitive; it's been suggested that the film itself represents a distinct form of madness. "Vertigo is just a movie," writes Stanley Cavell in The World Viewed, "but no other movie I know so purely conveys the sealing of a mind within a scorching fantasy." What is the role of psychoanalysis in Hitchcock's work? Is psychoanalysis merely one "surface feature" of Hitchcock's work, as Richard Allen has suggested, subject to irony like all the others? What draws psychoanalytic critics to Hitchcock's work, and how, if at all, is this phenomenon related to its modernism? [Philoctetes Center]
Film Studies For Free brings you one of its regular link-fests pertaining to the study of a single film: today, it's the turn of Alfred Hitchcock's truly magical thriller Vertigo (1958)

The below list of openly-accessible resources was very much inspired by the recent posting of a hugely entertaining, and vertiginously brilliant, discussion on this film between some of the most able Film Studies academics and writers of their generation (see above). The discussion was hosted by the wonderful people at the Philoctetes Center in New York City. Thanks so much to them for making this video available for all to watch and learn from.


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