Vertigo (1957)

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By Scott Ross

A commercial disappointment on its original release and never chosen by the casual movie-goer as a Hitchcock favorite, this great, sad rumination on obsessive love is one of the most original American movies to emerge from the studio system. It also contains what may be James Stewart’s finest performance in an unsurpassed career full of great performances.

Whether you respond to this tragic emotional statement — it’s certainly not a thriller — will probably depend on your own personal attitude toward the loss of an ideal (or at least, idealized) love. Kim Novak is radiant as the woman in question and the late Barbara Bel Geddes a revelation as the self-lacerating commercial artist silently pining for Stewart. Bernard Herrmann, who for all of his facility with the action genre responded especially deeply to stories of romantic inevitability, composed what may be his finest score.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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