Vertigo to the Top

Kim Novak - Vertigo (1958)The news that Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Vertigo (1958) has been voted the greatest film of all time, the first time in 50 years, knocking the “impressive” Citizen Kane (1941) off the top spot for the first time. I’m guessing it hasn’t fallen far from its top spot. This is the first time the fall has occurred in the 50 years since the poll was first run, starting in 1952 and ran every ten years. Times have changed since the last vote in 2002.

I have never really seen the appeal to Citizen Kane, I can see the technical sophistication of the film, how it has influence the visual style. Orson Welles himself is noted for referring to another of my favourite directors John Ford, watching Stagecoach (1939) over and over, learning from another master of cinema. The narrative is retrospective melodrama of a newspaper mogul that leans of the self-indulgence of the director, that translates into the main character.

However it’s thought today that style is no longer more important than substance, something that is lacking in film today. Audiences today want more introspective films that explore the inner workings of the mind. Our drives and desires. Hitchcock maybe been unable to garner the praise he deserved in his lifetime, that just how it is for great works, and those who produce them, Their value increases with the passing of time. We can revisit and start to understand and unpick the films. Vertigo was his most personal film, knowing exactly what he wanted in front of the camera.

With the BFI‘s current retrospective of the auteurs work has allowed for film fans who appreciate Hitchcock’s back catalogue with a sense of respect and awe. Around 50 classics that stand the test of time. And that’s the very definition of a classic, having a conscious or unconscious effect on culture, and the work that follows that is in turn influenced work of others.

This news is an indication as the direction as to where films must now go, the internal struggles of the individuals coupled with spectacular in the next ten years. Films such as the recent Batman trilogy and Inception (2010) both by Christopher NolanAt the other end of the scale we have work by the unpredictable but highly entertaining Coen Brothers. Whilst at the other end of the spectrum we have the likes of the highly imaginative and controversial David Lynch and Cronenberg who push the boundaries of the form and fabric of film. Whilst directors like Steven Speilberg produce the blockbusters that entertain the soul with emotion and spectacle, that doesn’t mean he is the best director, none of his films feature in the top 50.

I noticed also that a number of silent films are featured in the top 50, that could be influence by the success of The Artist (2011). We cannot deny the increasing access to DVDs that are bringing silent films and those not so old come back into our awareness. DVD sales have definitely boosted since they arrived at the turn of the century. DVDs are more accessible that its predecessor the VHS which degrades with time. The falling prices of classics and the content they contain on as little as once disc is more than any tape could hold.

I wonder whether Vertigo will still be at the top of the table come 2022 when the list is re-evaluated, or will another film that could supercede this psychological thriller. Right Now I can’t think of one. Will Orson Welles sophistication be more relevant as it was 20 years ago, or has the increasing sophistication audience keep Vertigo’s Scottie and Judy/Madeline in the belfry?


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