Moviegoers debate merits of 'Vertigo'

Wednesday September 5, 2012

According to Sight & Sound magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller "Vertigo" is the greatest movie of all time. According to some local movie buffs, not so much.

Every decade, the British Film Institute’s publication polls critics to select the greatest films of all time. From 1962 to 2002, the Orson Welles film "Citizen Kane" has topped that list -- not to mention several others, and is widely regarded as the crowning cinematic achievement.

This year, "Vertigo" flip-flopped positions with "Citizen Kane" on the list, forsaking any fear of heights suggested by the title to become the top of the heap of ranked films.

Nearly 80 people of all ages packed Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum at a special weekend showing to see "Vertigo" on a large cinema screen -- a rare opportunity in the year 2012.

"It was fascinating to revisit it," said Lesley Ann Beck, communications director for Berk shire Museum. "There was a different dynamic watching it with a large group of people in the theater. That’s the way Hitchcock intended it to be seen."

The Little Cinema audience’s consensus was that "Vertigo" was "good," "very good," or "great" -- but not the greatest movie of all time.

"I think [Sight & Sound magazine] should have kept ‘Citizen Kane’ on top. I was surprised they shifted it," said Douglas Roy, a local movie buff who was front and center of the theater to experience the crisp, digital version of "Vertigo" on the big screen.

" ‘Citizen Kane’ showed all elements of filmmaking, but this is a good movie. ‘North by Northwest’ is still the best Hitchcock movie, though," Roy said.

"Vertigo" stars James Stew art as John "Scottie" Ferguson, a cop plagued with a fear of heights. He comes out of retirement when an old college friend named Gavin Elster asks him to spy on his wife (Kim Novak in dual roles), thinking she is possessed by an ancestor.

With its twisty, topsy-turvy plot, the audience was clearly engaged in "Vertigo," murmuring as specific plot points were brought to light or gasping in horror at the famous suicide scene.

Pittsfield resident Sarah Delsignor and her daughter, Kate, 13, proclaim themselves to be Hitchcock fans. "Rear Window" is Kate’s all-time favorite movie.

"We don’t own many movies, but we own that one," Sarah Delsignor said.

After filing out of the movie, the Delsignors were a tad confused by the movie’s intricate plot line. Sarah Delsignor said she’d take to the Internet when she got home to help decipher the movie.

The movie acted as a refresher for other attendees, like Pittsfield natives Anita Bakst and Jean Doak. They were happy to see the movie again, especially since they had a hard time recalling if they had even seen it in the first place.

"I don’t think it’s the greatest movie of all time. For me, that would be ‘Witness for the Prosecution,’ " Bakst said. "But how do you call just one movie the greatest movie of all time? There are so many."

Doak said "Gone with the Wind" is her pick for the greatest movie of all time.

"I can watch it over and over," she said. "I don’t care how long it is."

But "Vertigo" isn’t without its merits, Roy said, and shouldn’t be scoffed at when considered the greatest film of all time.

"The psychology works on so many levels," Roy said.

Little Cinema often shows classic films as a way of displaying their relevance, even in modern context, and to spur discussion among the community.

"We have the freedom to do that," Beck said, adding that "Casablanca" should be given consideration for the greatest movie of all time.


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