Restored `Vertigo' is a dizzying experience

July 19, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Movie-lovers who haven't seen Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 Vertigo since its 1996 restoration owe themselves a visit to the Charles at noon tomorrow. They're apt to feel as if they've never seen it before because they've never heard it before.

The post-1996 prints of the ultimate cult movie - Hitchcock's voluptuous exploration of l'amour feu - present the original musical tracks in state-of-the-art sound that extracts previously hidden undertones and highlights from Bernard Herrmann's score. Of the composer's five collaborations with Hitchcock (including Psycho), this is the most complex and brilliant; he deploys everything from a habanera to a waltz macabre to illuminate the morbid romanticism at the movie's core.

With soaring visual eloquence - a unique mixture of the mist-draped and hard-edged - Hitchcock takes voyeurism and amorous fixation to audacious, almost necrophilic, lengths in this tale of a retired San Francisco police detective (James Stewart) investigating whether an old acquaintance's wife (Kim Novak) is spiritually possessed.

Despite its misshapen form and languor (Stewart crosses a room in the time it took him to race across London in The Man Who Knew Too Much), the movie is hypnotic and gloriously operatic - not a conventional masterpiece but an auteur classic, flooded with the Master's erotic and moral obsessions.

Stewart's character is acrophobic; when Hitchcock links the hero's vertigo to his sexual vulnerability, the result is dizzying. (The TV series Monk, about an obsessive-compulsive San Francisco police detective, pays comic homage to Vertigo.) The awkwardness of the mystery adds to the film's sense that life is a puzzle with a piece missing.

Stewart and Novak match up marvelously well - he brings out all of his tortured Everyguy's clammy excitement, while she's fiercely, exhilaratingly physical, even when her character's enigmatic - and Barbara Bel Geddes is touching as the film's token sane person, who's hopelessly out of her depth. Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor wrote the script, from the novel D'Entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac; the movie, too, was revived from death, thanks to the restoration team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, who imbued it with a clarity and luster it had lacked for 38 years.

Admission is $5.

`CineMaryland' honored

The creators of CineMaryland, the Baltimore-produced TV series dedicated to opening up the world of Maryland moviemaking (the Maryland Film Office underwrites it), tallied up the prizes they've won so far in 2002 and arrived at a grand total of six, including two nods each in the 23rd Annual Telly Awards (a national competition honoring film and video production) and this year's AXIEM Awards (an international competition recognizing "Absolute Excellence in Electronic Media").

Producer-host Rebecca Jessop, director of special projects at the Senator, calls the show "a labor of love" and says, "we're absolutely thrilled to be receiving awards while we're having so much fun." Producer-director Karen Hinds, of HCC-TV, adds, "Rebecca and I have been producing CineMaryland since 1997. The show has come a long way since then, and I'm thrilled by the recognition."

CineMaryland airs on 10 channels throughout the state; for more information, see howardcc.edu/hcctv.

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