Introduced by Phoebe English
Vertigo ranked highest in the latest Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll of film scholars and critics. Although a critical and box office flop when released, through the years, Hitchcock’s complex erotic thriller about the death of love and its possible return has gained an enthralled audience. James Stewart stars as a retired detective who attempts to re-fashion his lost love, as Kim Novak plays both the lover and her apparent double. The complexities of grasping the image of the beloved, the pain of loss, and the perils of recovering the past through control of costume have never been so stunningly visualised.
USA 1958. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. With James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes. Costumes Edith Head.
+The Perfect Intoxication
This 235-metre-long reel is the only surviving fragment of Alfredo De Antoni’s 1920 feature film La Perfetta ebbrezza (with the original length being 1550m). It is preserved in its French version in the collections of the British Film Institute and was recently identified by Mariann Lewinsky Strauli, one of the programmers of Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato.
La Perfetta ebbrezza was made in the milieu of Italian cinema of the 1910s, in which a circle of intellectual filmmakers sought to legitimate cinema as an art form. An example of the literature-driven ‘romanzo-film’ (film-novel), it tells the story of Sergio, a man who suffers from ‘amorous spleen’ and spends his life in a vain pursuit of fulfilment. Women come and go, one desire gives way to another, and at the end of each looms deadly boredom… No one can give Sergio what he is looking for, until his desire is finally awakened…
The final (preserved) part of the film shows Sergio, now middle-aged, meeting a beautiful young woman at a party. She is dressed in black, with her face partially covered with a black mask. When Sergio asks after her name, she replies: ‘My name is Mystery’. She then vanishes. Teased by this enigma, Sergio follows her all the way.
Italy 1920. Dir. Alfredo De Antoni. 35mm.
Phoebe English is a fashion designer renowned for her attention to precision and beauty. She uses innovative staging in her LFW presentations to infuse her work with a strong conceptual focus, and is regularly invited to take part in exhibitions internationally.