Editorial: The Streets of San Francisco

Editorial-Vertigo-The streets of San Francisco 

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Sixty years ago this week (on May 9th), Vertigo was released. It is often hailed as the best movie of all time. I may not be of the same opinion, nor is it my favourite Hitchcock film, but I can not deny its grandness and beauty. Vertigo was shot in San Francisco – Northern California is where Alfred Hitchcock found much comfort and an irresistible backdrop for some of his finest films, including Shadow of A Doubt (1943) and The Birds (1963) . With its vertiginous hills, high-reaching buildings and panoramic views, San Francisco is the perfect setting for Vertigo, the city being used to dizzying effect for a story of romantic obsession with the image of a woman.

The film’s use of actual urban locations was still rather rare for that time for a studio movie – as a side note, Vertigo was definitely no studio commercial success. There is no shortage of atmospheric Bay Area locations in Vertigo, but the silent sequences of Scottie’s extended tailing of Madeleine (Kim Novak) in her green car on the streets of San Francisco is where both the beauty of choosing that location and the mastermind of Hitchcock lie. So subtle yet revealing and involving. The camera floats, immersing Scottie (James Stewart), and the viewer along with him, into his chase of wild ghosts and down the road to doomed love. Hitchcock certainly does not rely just on the real geography to make Vertigo‘s San Francisco wholly cinematic. Mr. Hitchcock, after countless viewings, your films hold the same spellbinding effect on me.

photo: movie still | Alfred J Hitchcock Productions

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