Saturday, August 04, 2012

"Vertigo" Wins Best Picture Ever

Last week, Sight & Sound released their latest poll of the greatest films of all time.  Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo tops the list, well ahead of Citizen Kane.  Christian Blauvelt at Entertainment Weekly (among others) breaks down the list here.

Citizen Kane had been the standard-bearer for 50 years, and while scholars agree that it is an incredible movie, most moviegoers normally say "meh" when talking about it.  Yet everything we see now comes from a movie like Kane.  Still, it is a movie I highly recommend seeing, and try seeing it recognizing that it is all new as it is being produced in 1941.

Vertigo is utterly...freaking...brilliant.  I've been beating this horse for years, beginning when I first saw it, in college, in 1987.  Yes, it's slow, but I discover something new every time I see it.  And it is Jimmy Stewart at his most desparate - even maniacal.  Plus it is a story of incredible depth.  I love it, and am thrilled to see it named as the best movie ever...but I'm surprised.

I figured Kane would be the winner.  Even The Godfather (which is personally high on my list, but didn't make the top 10 on the Sight and Sound list).  But...Vertigo?

To be honest, it is not a list of movies that most people have seen.  I've seen four of the top 10: Vertigo, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Searchers.  I don't even think The Searchers is John Ford's best work, preferring Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (not to mention The Grapes of Wrath and The Quiet Man, but I'm not a voter.  I thought 2001 was, er, interesting, though it is perhaps Stanley Kubrick's crowning achievement.

Vertigo is deep, with Hitchcock in the midst of his finest period of pictures, including North by Northwest and Rear Window, with Psycho soon to come.  Kim Novak is fine as Madeline/Judy, but this is Stewart's film.  Trust me, this is not George Bailey.  This is Scottie Ferguson, former detective, full of psychological "stuff."

If you ever watch it (and I implore you to), you might dislike it.  You might even hate it.  But if you're open enough, and like the work of Stewart and Hitchcock, you will get into it.  Then...maybe a few hours later...or a few days'll go "whoa!" as the tale begins to wind around you.

It is the work of two masters at the top of their game.

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