Vertigo ★★★★★

Hitchcock’s masterwork, better than any other, reminds us of two truisms of cinema: to look is to remember and to remember is to impose. The hypnotic spirals that haunt every facet of the visual design and even the trademark dolly zoom effect take us deeper into the image, to the point that it threatens to swallow us, much as the past threatens to engulf Scottie. Of course these geometrical chasms are metaphorically vaginal, making Vertigo the great masterpiece about sexual obsession as well. The intersections between scopophilia, sex, and death have never been more carefully sketched out than in this perfect fetish object for anyone who has ever loved the image a little too much. Appropriately, then, in this study in perverse poeticism, lust is expressed in terms (crashing waves, camera movements, color schemes) that only a true cinephile could get off on. The intensely personal subject matter and Hitchcock’s flair for symbolic simultaneity make Vertigo an object of endless critical fascination. It is a work that lives and grows in the memory, with more to offer on repeat viewings than other any great film, because it is precisely about re-viewing. Even on first brush, however, this effect is strong, with the potent power of its first half only unlocking once the second has traumatized us.