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Screen (2008) - "It's all there, it's no dream": Vertigo and the redemptive pleasures of the cinephilic pilgrimage





What is a cinephilic pilgrimage? Is it simply a journey to a place featured in a favourite film? Or does the journey have deeper spiritual and phenomenological dimensions? Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) offers the best definition: a cinephilic pilgrimage resembles Madeleine's purported visits to Golden Gate Park's 'Portals of the Past' monument, a remnant of Old San Francisco that serves as the site of her psychic transformation to - and/or possession by - the film's avatar of Alta California, Carlotta Valdes. During these visits, Madeleine allegedly connects with a colonial-era narrative by staring across Lake Lloyd at the monument 'on the far side'. Similarly, in their pilgrimages, cinephiles attempt to reify (that is, ground within the real) an inherently ephemeral experience of the past while, at the same time, utilizing real spaces as 'portals' through which to once again access, personally experience, and even occupy, that past. However, just as Scottie learns that Judy can never match the Madeleine of his memory, cinephilic pilgrims soon discover that the real cannot live up to the image. The 'Spiral of Time' (mentioned by Chris Marker in Sans Soleil (1983), urban erasure, lack of affective context and lack of framing all contribute to the inadequacy of the real in the face of expectations derived from cinematic memory. In order to occupy and control the space of possibility and meaning (a phenomenon Siegfried Kracauer refers to as 'psychophysical correspondence'), the cinephilic pilgrim must exercise creative agency; only then can the cinephile redeem both the real and the image.