Archive for October 1st, 2014


by Maurizio Roca

What is it about a dream? Half remembered, maddeningly elliptical, hazy in its details. Snippets of information that one must process slowly as memories are recalled suddenly…sometimes never. Vertigo, for all its attributes, is best approached this way at first. It is a part of Hitchcock, but also separate, holding a certain position in his filmography that can feel isolated and distinctive. It’s not just out to entertain us, but to probe something mysterious and elusive within—a personal exploration through obsession that feels repressed, almost necessarily so by its author. When reality becomes too hard to face…maybe only a dream will do.

What is it about the wordless segment of Scottie tailing Madeleine throughout San Francisco that sinuates deeply into the viewer’s equilibrium? The aura that is permeated from Bernard Hermann’s exceptional score as we journey through a flower shop, then a church, followed by a graveyard, next to a museum, and finally into the McKittrick’s Hotel where eleven minutes of silence are suddenly breached. A conversation with a front desk clerk seemingly designed to arouse us from a blissful slumber back to the waking world.

What is it about the way Hitchcock methodically transforms the film from a mystery to a haunting look at infatuation? Making the likable Scottie slowly reveal a tortured preoccupation with control and sexual fantasy previously hidden. As his façade of normalcy gets stripped clean, we are witness to some endemic perversions he cannot conceal. Increasingly he falls deeper and deeper into his own personal abyss…a ghastly nightmare he cannot wake up from. (more…)

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 © 2014 by James Clark

 Some years back, I wrote an essay on L’Avventura (1960) as usefully clarified by Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000). There the thematic wonderment centered upon a tidal wave of social exigencies shattering intimations of integrity which would cut across the grain of mountainously firm and venerable laws of survival.

In the wake of a consideration of the wiggle-room of similarly-beleaguered A, the protagonist of Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961), there seems to be more to say about the trials and tribulations of Claudia, protagonist of L’Avventura, ensconced, like A, in an A-list milieu. A would eventually consign herself to the ways of salt-of-the-earth, X. But her trajectory would also be mindful of the allure of solitude as an offshoot of both advanced material well-being and advanced flexibility in coping with the world at large.

Even before bringing us L’Avventura, Antonioni was well known as an avatar of arrestingly stylish cinematography, an auteur extraordinarily focused upon the perceptual updrafts accruing to the pulse of a scenario by reason of striking deployment of natural light as absorbed by the grey-scale of black and white filming, in conjunction with the physical presence of performers, their apparel, their industrial and architectural design milieu and the compositional cadences of their moving about. With L’Avventura, he had on his hands an unprecedented objective to bring these factors into stunning and subtle force. (Hence the first image of the credits reports that the film has been cited, by the Cannes Film Festival, for its “new movie language and the beauty of its images.”) (more…)

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