Beautifully filmed in shining colors, directed with the skill of a great artist, and plotted with the insanity of a serial killer, Vertigo is a brain-noodling masterpiece.
The plot is best appreciated by first-time viewers without any prompting whatsoever, so I’ll encourage you all to go in cold and focus on the aesthetics: The way Alfred Hitchcock uses lighting and camera moves in this movie is next-level, certainly by 1958 standards and even compared to many contemporary movies. Combined with Bernard Herrmann’s famously eerie score, Hitch’s work is a case study in what a director does and why it matters.
He famously repudiated Jimmy Stewart as the star of the film in hindsight, declaring him “too old” — and there are several scenes where Stewart’s age at first seems to be a liability, whether for physical or ethical reasons. However, by the end of the film I can’t imagine anyone else in the starring role, and the same could be said of Stewart’s costar, the eerily distant Kim Novak.
As a bonus, this movie is a gorgeous travelogue of San Francisco neighborhoods and landmarks, which was a special treat for me as an SF resident. Both on a local-knowledge level and (more importantly) a plot/thematic level, Vertigo resonated so much more on this viewing than it did when I was a teenager. Recommended. ★★★★½