Sunday, 29 July 2007

Found Polaroids

This website has a wonderful collection of found polaroids.

Haunted Found Photo

One of the beautiful images found on the BigHappyFunHouse found photo archive

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Vertigo: The Gaze

For me Hitchcock's Vertigo contains one of the most extraordinary examinations of obsessive desire associated with the male gaze. The texture of Hitchcock's film itself has a strange, powerful and sensual quality, implicating us almost physically in Scottie's vertiginous and ultimately hopeless desire, which is expressed at first through an erotic desire for a ideal fantasised woman and then through an obsession with the abyssal absence of the Other. The quality of the first erotic desire is almost traditional, and is certaintly familiar. There is a woman with both a polished and glowing surface, who shines ecstatically with great beauty, but who also posseses a dark and troubling depth. She is a woman haunted and possessed by an atavistic female double. The woman being desired (Madeleine) is mysterious, unknowable, and troubled.

Camille Paglia has written some extremely perceptive things on precisely this aspect of the film:

"Some of my favorite moments in that film are simply when James Stewart is looking, just looking, staring. That includes the first time he actually sees Madeleine, when of course the whole thing is a show put on to dupe him. He's sitting in that fancy San Francisco restaurant as Kim Novak floats by in this magnificent floor-length cape and opera gown. I'm so transfixed when she arrives: It's this long, slow pan as she comes into the restaurant and moves by him. He just sits and stares, and it's the fascinated staring of all men -- all heterosexual men but even gay men -- through history as they watch a beautiful woman walk into a room. I mean it's absolutely primal to me; it's that kind of deep, mythological emotion, the kind of awed emotion that almost can't be is something mysterious about femaleness -- coming from the facts of woman's physical nature, the endless mysteries of the shadowy womb, and the power of procreation that even she doesn't understand. Part of what I got from Hitchcock is his vision of woman's un-knowability, her un-reachability, her enormous beauty -- the glamorous artifice with which she cloaks herself but ultimately her incredible, natural sexual power."

But to me the film really appears to subvert this traditional erotic desire, simply because Scottie is being misled. His gaze, his desire, his obsession, is for something that cannot be reached simply because it does not exist. Madeleine is not real, she is a fabrication designed to seduce him and use him. He is duped within the game of 'power and freedom'. He is, in the words of Chris Marker, 'time's fool of love'. His desire ultimately leads his gaze towards not the surface abyss of the mysterious and unknowable woman, but the terrifying abyss of the Other itself.

"The abyss Scottie is finally able to look into is the very abyss of the hole in the Other (the symbolic order), concealed by the fascinating presence of the fantasy object. We have this same experience every time we look into the eyes of another person and feel the depth of his gaze."
—Slavoj Zizek, from Looking Awry

Is this what finally drives Scottie mad? There are certaintly indications that it is. In the hallucinatory dream sequence the final image before Scottie wakes up is the silhouette of a hollow figure that falls from the tower. The figure falling from the tower has become a dark hole, hollow and unreflective.

The fantasy figure of Madeleine that occludes this truth from Scottie's gaze has disappeared, which leaves him with the problem of how to confront the terrifying vertigo of the abyssal hole in the world that the Other signifies. His answer is to try to put the fantasy object back in its place, to try and cover over the abyss before it's too late. Judy is his second chance. But fatally Judy too (the prosaic woman who merely resembles Madeleine) is merely another of Scottie's fantasies, another lie, which in his frantic and almost necrophiliac desire to resurrect Madeleine, he misses.

Vertigo: Haunted Locations - Part Four

Scottie proceeds to follow Madeleine into the chapel, fearing that she is about to kill herself.

After Madeleine has fallen to her death there is a sequence consisting of the coroner's inquest into her death which was filmed in the Plaza building at the Mission San Juan Batista.

After Scottie's mental breakdown there is a sequence in San Francisco where he spots a woman who bears a striking resemblance to the dead Madeleine. He follows her back to her room at the Empire Hotel. This Hotel has now been renamed the York Hotel but is still clearly recognizable from the film.

Scottie befriends the woman, who calls herself Judy. In one beautiful sequence they take a walk together at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Vertigo: Haunted Locations - Part Three

There are two sequences which take place at the old Spanish Mission at San Juan Batista which is located 40 miles south of San Francisco. Before each there is a striking sequence where first Scottie and Madeleine and then Scottie and Judy drive down to the Mission. There is a beautiful sequence where they drive through the Avenue of Tall Trees.

The iconic sequences at the San Juan Batista Mission south of San Francisco occur in a number of different buildings. The first sequence occurs in a livery stable, where Madeleine sits apparently in a trance on a buggy drawn by a plaster horse. The stable, together with plaster horse and buggy are perfectly preserved and almost completely unchanged since the shooting of the film.

From the script:

INT. LIVERY STABLE - (DAY) The dark interior of the Livery Stable. The figures of Scottie and Madeleine are seen a little way in. Madeleine is seated in a surrey, while Scottie stands by her.

INT. LIVERY STABLE - (DAY) Madeleine's eyes are closed. Scottie, leaning against the surrey, looks up at her intently. After moment he calls to her softly.

SCOTTIE: Madeleine...? She opens her eyes and looks down at him.

SCOTTIE: Where are you now? She smiles at him gently.

MADELEINE: (Softly) Here with you.

SCOTTIE: And it's a all real.


SCOTTIE: (Firmly) Not merely as it was a hundred years ago. As it was a year ago, or six months ago, whenever you were here to see it. (Pressing) Madeleine, think of when you were here!

She looks down at him with, a worried, regretful smile, wishing she could help him. Then she looks away into the distance, and speaks almost at irrelevantly.

MADELEINE: (Dreamily) There were not so many carriages, then. And there were horses in the stalls; a bay, two black, and a grey. It was her favorite place, but we were forbidden to play here, and Sister Teresa would scold us...

Scottie looks up at her in desperation, then looks about the stable for help. His look scans the carriages and wagons lined against the wall, goes past the old fire truck on which there is a placard proclaiming the world's championship of 1884, and finally stops at a small buggy -- a Bike Wagon --To which is hitched a full-sized model of a handsome grey horse.

SCOTTIE: Well, now, here! He races to the horse. On it hangs a sign: "Greyhound World's Greatest Trotter."

SCOTTIE: Here's your grey horse! Course he'd have a tough time getting in and out of a stall without being pushed, but still... You see? There's an answer for everything!

He looks across to Madeleine eagerly. She is staring ahead, lost in the past.

Madeleine then runs from the livery stable across the courtyard of the Mission towards the chapel and the Tower. The Tower does not exist and was added as a special effect for the film. In all other respects though the Mission at San Juan Batista remains startlingly unchanged from the film.

The chapel and the Tower from the original film:

Madeleine and Scottie embrace outside the chapel, before Madeleine persuades him to allow her to go into the chapel alone.
From the Script:

MADELEINE: You believe that I love you?


MADELEINE: And if you lose me, you'll know that I loved you and wanted to go on loving you.

SCOTTIE: I won't lose you. Pause.

MADELEINE: Let me go into the church alone.

MADELEINE: Please. Because I love you.

He stares at her, sees the pleading look in her eyes, and lets go. She turns and walks away toward the church, slowly, her head bowed. He watches her go and starts to move after her. Then slowly, as she goes, her head begins to go up until finally, as she walks, she is staring high above her. And then, suddenly, she breaks into a broken run.

EXT. CLOISTERS - (DAY) Scottie jerks his head up to see what she was looking at.

EXT. CLOISTERS - (DAY) From Scottie's viewpoint: the high church tower.

EXT. CLOISTERS - (DAY) Scottie, immediately alarmed, brings his eyes down and looks toward the church entrance.

EXT. CLOISTERS - (DAY) From Scottie's viewpoint: Madeleine runs through the open front door of the church, and vanishes.

EXT. CLOISTERS - (DAY) Scottie starts to run toward the church.

SCOTTIE: Madeleine!!! He runs to the church door and runs in.

Vertigo: Haunted Locations - Part Two

Scottie follows Madeleine to San Francisco Bay at the spectacular Fort Point, location of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the location of one of the most iconic sequences in the entire film.

Scottie watches as Madeleine stares mournfully into the bay, dropping flower petals into the water. Suddenly she jumps into the bay, and Scottie jumps in to save her.

Scottie pulls the unconscious Madeleine from the bay and takes her back to his apartment at 900 Lombard Street in San Francisco. This apartment still exists and is still clearly recognizable from the original film, and provides a further extraordinary touchstone to Vertigo.

Later in the film Scottie continues to follow Madeleine around San Francisco and is surprised when he follows her green Jaguar right back to his apartment at Lombard Street. This is the scene from Scottie's point of view as he follows Madeleine down Lombard Street.