Vertigo Variations

A few ways of seeing Alfred Hitchcock's impossible object
by B. Kite and Alexander Points-Zollo  posted August 2, 2012
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The BFI's Sight & Sound magazine just announced that the winner of its Greatest Films of All Time poll is Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, ending the 50-year reign of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, winner of the once-a-decade poll since 1962 and now in second place. 846 film experts participated in the poll. It is Sight & Sound's seventh and most ambitious to date; the full results are published in the September issue. Visit for the results in full.

Vertigo is an impossible object: a gimcrack plot studded with strange gaps that nonetheless rides a pulse of peculiar necessity, a field of association that simultaneously expands and contracts like its famous trick shot, a ghost story whose spirits linger even after having been apparently explained away, and a study of obsession that becomes an obsessive object in its own right, situated likewise on the edge of unreality. This video series avoids assigning the film any determinate shape and tries instead to enter it through a number of side doors, each indicative of a way of seeing. Part 1 explores some of the ground-level weirdness of the film's construction, offers a suggestion that the film may exist in its own unique tense, and examines two iterations of the (Chris) Marker Hypothesis. Part 2 is spooky, reading the film through a phantom appendage then laying down a sort of Vertigo tarot before moving onto slightly more solid ground with a new consideration of Hitchcock's concept of the MacGuffin. Part 3 takes the zoom-in-track-out as an emblem, reconsiders the issue of point of view, then throws all the pieces back up in the air. That's a thematic rundown and preview of potential attractions, from the position of the narrator. The images have their own agendas, which often coincide but sometimes don't.

Technical note: Although heavy compression of large files is necessary for speedy Internet streaming, it sometimes does unpredictable things with random and rapidly changing elements, e.g. the static in this video. The makers heartily recommend that interested viewers download a slightly less compressed QuickTime version of Vertigo Variations. The file is about 500 MB. 


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Universal Home Entertainment
Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Novak on the set of his film Vertigo
Photo Gallery: Vertigo Variations


video essay  |  Alfred Hitchcock  |  Vertigo  |  Chris Marker


Vertigo Variations, Pt 1 by B. Kite and Alexander Points-Zollo
Vertigo Variations, Pt 2 by B. Kite and Alexander Points-Zollo
Vertigo Variations, Pt 3 by B. Kite and Alexander Points-Zollo
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B. Kite lives in Brooklyn. He has written on movies and books for publications including The Village Voice, The Believer, and Cinema Scope, as well as appearing in the anthology Exile Cinema: Filmmakers at Work Beyond Hollywood (SUNY, 2008).

More articles by B. Kite

Alexander Points-Zollo is an experimental filmmaker in Brooklyn. He is currently seeking employment.

More articles by Alexander Points-Zollo