17 January 2012

The Poem That is Vertigo

I'm torn between the light and dark 
Where others see their targets 
Divine symmetry 
Should I kiss the viper's fang 
Or herald loud
the death of Man 
I'm sinking in the quicksand 
of my thought 
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself 
Don't deceive with belief 
Knowledge comes
with death's release 

I'm not a prophet 
or a stone age man 
Just a mortal 
with the potential of a superman 
I'm living on 
I'm tethered to the logic 
of Homo Sapien 
_ From Quicksand by David Bowie

It just doesn't fit. All those beautiful pieces and they don't go to together. But they don't have to. If you want logic, see an instructional film on car repair. No, no, no. Vertigo (1958) is not about the story. Hitch said so himself. It's the mood.

The look. Look at it. The words are part of the instrumentals, they're not lyrics. I thought. Maybe. That it would work better as a silent movie. But that just meant I was overstating the importance of the words to the story. Or misplacing them. The words are not to be used to construct a linear story, but to accompany the movements and the colors and the backdrops.

Of course, the story had to be set in San Francisco. With dizzying hills and vistas, and the icy blue bay, the pixilated history and the eccentricities galore. A beautiful city. With magnificent woods nearby and twisting roads leading to missions with bell towers. A good place for a fall. One purposeful the second accidental. Should anyone really buy that last fall? Was it meant to be ironic? Or some sort of delayed justice? If the latter the architect of the original crime was still away Scot free. It was rather silly and contrived but then that's taking the fact of it too literally. The last fall, the death was part of the poem that is Vertigo.

The honest, direct warmth of Jimmy Stewart serves as a perfect contrast to the devastating beauty of Kim Novak. He was at the time approximately twice her age. This served to heighten their contrast, to add another bit of the outre to the story, like how quickly they fell in love and how deeply. And as the everyman, Stewart's descent into bizarre obsession, preceded mind you, by a turn in the loony bin, is evermore effective.

Vertigo is not a story in the traditional sense. It is an exploration of misdirection. A dance around the mind. A tender embrace of jagged edges. Vertigo the condition is an ideal film subject. A person facing a malady that strips him of his vocation and sets him up to be a patsy. An exploitation that leads to a comatose state. This poor blighter seems close to the figurative edge even as he avoids the literal ones. He wants to recreate in one person what he had in another. And in getting it he finds the real McCoy and that serves as the ultimate betrayal. She was her all along and that is unforgivable, because it means a code, a trust has been violated. That supersedes all.

You don't need to muck up such a story with the sensible. That's like dissing a beloved song for having split infinitives. This film is Dali meets Bergman as directed by Hitchcock with Mr. America and a blonde beauty in the lead. Wow.

There is not just physical wonders and delights for the eyes but talking points and moods to contemplate. It can't be viewed as a perfect movie because of the holes in the story. But then the holes are irrelevant to its majesty anyway. This is bright reds of Ernie's. The green aura of a woman. Nightmares more fascinating then frightening. People mixed up, toying with others lives and thus their own.  It's a trip, man. Really.

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