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Vertigo (1958)Vertigo (1958)

With fifty feature-length films to his credit, Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) churned out nearly a film a year for the better part of his adult life. 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of Vertigo, a film of dark dreams, obsession of a type that is more like possession, madness, fear, love and guilt. And no small amount of mystery and intrigue until the final minutes. Set in San Francisco, Jimmy Stewart stars as Scotty, a detective who had to retire from the police force because of a traumatic experience with heights. We know what his vertigo begot in the first minutes of the film, but not in the very last scene. Scotty does his college friend Gavin a favor, which is to tail his wife Madeleine who has been "possessed" by the long-dead Carlotta Valdes. That kindness turns out to be a distinctly bad idea. The scenery, the ominous musical score, the now quaint roles of gender and justice, and Hitchcock's genius for mining the depths of the human psyche all make Vertigo well worth watching fifty years on.

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