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The San Francisco of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo: Place, Pilgrimage, and Commemoration (2011) edited by Douglas A. Cunningham

author Douglas A. Cunningham
publisher Scarecrow Press (2011)
ISBN 0810881225 (hardback)
links LibraryThing

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Part I: Vertigo and the Weight of History

Part II: Vertigo's Wanderers: On Seeking the Cinematic Sacred]]

Part III: Marking Vertigo: Validations in Time and Space


In Sight and Sound magazine's 2012 poll of the greatest films of all time, Vertigo placed at the top of the list, supplanting Citizen Kane. A favorite among critics, it also made the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies where it ranked in the top 10. Often regarded as Hitchcock's most personal work, the film explores such themes as obsession, exploitation, and voyeurism. In "The San Francisco of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo: Place, Pilgrimage, and Commemoration", Douglas A. Cunningham has assembled provocative essays that examine the uniquely integrated relationship that the 1958 film enjoys with the histories and cultural imaginations of California and, more specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area. Contributors to this collection ponder a number of topics such as the ways in which Vertigo resurrects the narratives of San Francisco's violent past; how sightseeing informs the act of watching the film; the significance that landmarks in the film hold in our collective cultural memory; and the variety of ways in which Vertigo enthusiasts commemorate the film. The essays also ask larger questions about the specificities of place and the role such specificities play in our comprehensive efforts to understand this layered and seminal film. Because of its interdisciplinary approach, The San Francisco of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo will have a broad appeal to scholars of film, anthropology, geography, ethnic studies, the history of California and the West, tourism, and, of course, anyone with an abiding interest in the work of Alfred Hitchcock.


Cunningham himself has been to all the locations, of course, and reflects on the passion that makes him and others hunt them out: "Was I not, after all, like Scottie, hoping to reify an apparition, chasing a precious, enigmatic memory rooted in a fiction, the truth of which I desperately hoped I, in my own time and space, could somehow make real?" The attempt is fraught with disappointment; Scottie cannot make things real in time enough to prevent tragedy, and some of the sites which pilgrims might try to attain are changed beyond recognition (and some are complete illusion, as was discovered by the first pilgrims who tried to find the Argosy Bookshop, where Scottie goes to research Carlotta's history). But the search is inspiring for those who want to visit the inside workings of Vertigo. The inspiration suffuses all the chapters of this fine study, a worthy contribution to the numerous books devoted to increasing our understanding of a true masterpiece.
— The Commercial Dispatch


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