Hitchcock's Greatest Reborn

WHEN IT WAS RELEASED IN 1958, FEW people considered Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock's best. Other Hitch movies were tauter, scarier, more on-the-surface fun. "Vertigo" needed time for the audience to rise to its darkly rapturous level. This month it reope ns in a glorious 70mm print that's been painstakingly restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz. Now you can see Hitchcock's greatest, most personal (and kinkiest) movie afresh, with a new digitalized soundtrack that brings Bernard Herrmann's spiral ing, haunted, "Tristan and Isolde"-infected score to the fore.

Why is this movie Hitchcock's masterpiece? Because no movie plunges us more deeply into the dizzying heart of erotic obsession. Because in Jimmy Stewart's fetishtic pursuit of mystery woman Kim Novak--whom he transforms into the image of the dead w oman he loved--Hitchcock created the cinema's most indelible metaphor for the objectification of desire. Because Stewart, playing a man free-falling into love, responds with a performance so harrowing in its ferocity it must have surprised even himself. Because Novak, that great slinky cat, imbues her double role with a mesmerizing poignance. Because the impeccable, dreamlike images of this ghostly Liebestod are so eerily beautiful they stay in your head forever. And because the older you get, and the m ore times you see it, the more strange, chillingly romantic thriller pierces your heart.

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