Tag Archive: Vertigo


LOS ORGANOS SIN CUERPO

 

La sexualidad malsana, el simbolismo atrapado en una espiral y el asesinato del suspense en la mitad de la trama son las armas que convirtieron a “Vértigo” en la película más compleja de Alfred Hitchcock, en la que se transparenta con el turbador envés de su sentido del entretenimiento.

“Hay en ´Vértigo´ otro aspecto que llamaría ´psicosexológico´ y es la voluntad que anima a este hombre para recrear una imagen sexual imposible: para decirlo de manera sencilla, este hombre quiere acostarse con una muerta; esto es, necrofilia”, explicaba sobre la película a François Truffaut en el libro “El cine según Hitchcock”.
Efectivamente, si el cineasta británico es considerado “el mago del suspense” es por su habilidad para nutrir tan entretenido género de una fina ironía en clásicos como “Con la muerte en los talones” (1959), de un profundo romanticismo en “Encadenados” (1946) o de una disección psicológica -y patológica- de sus personajes, de la que “Vértigo” es el mejor ejemplo. “Es fascinante que una película tan íntima pudiera salir de un sistema de monopolio de estudio y con grandes estrellas”, reconocía Martin Scorsese en el documental “Obsesionados por Vértigo”, realizado con motivo de la restauración del filme en 1993. Y es que las obsesiones del maestro se explicitaron más que nunca en este filme. James Stewart recibió su personaje más complejo, “Scottie”, un policía que sufre acrofobia y que, ya retirado, se ve inmerso en la rocambolesca persecución de Madeleine, la esposa de un antiguo compañero poseída por el espíritu de una antepasada.
Sin embargo, Hitchcock, contradiciendo a la novela original -escrita pensando en él por los psicólogos Boileau y Narcejac- decidió ahogar el suspense y revelar el misterio a mitad de la película: la Madeleine de la que se había enamorado el protagonista era una joven llamadaJudy, contratada como señuelo para encubrir un crimen. Así, emerge en la película un poderoso y enrarecido retrato de un amor obsesivo y necrófilo que obliga a releer todo lo anteriormente mostrado.
Curiosamente, Hitchcock sometió a Kim Novak durante el rodaje al mismo proceso que “Scottie” realizaba con su personaje: mimetizarla con la actriz Vera Miles, para la que había diseñado el doble rol de Judy/Madeleine pero que rechazó el papel debido a su embarazo. Ese acto erótico de reconstruir una imagen que se escapó o que, como en la película, jamás existió, lo explica el propio Hitchcock a Truffaut: “Todos los esfuerzos de James Stewart para recrear a la mujer, cinematográficamente son presentados como si fuera a desnudarla en lugar de vestirla”. Y esa transformación, vecina a la denigración, debe ser integral: “No está completamente satisfecho porque no se ha peinado formando un moño. ¿Qué quiere esto decir? Quiere decir que está casi desnuda ante él, pero todavía se niega a quitarse la braguita”, proseguía.
La perturbación fue descrita por Hitchcock casi sin palabras, a través de las largas secuencias de solitaria persecución, con la ayuda de un Stewart inmejorable en ese silencioso enamoramiento que llevaba hasta el extremo el voyeurismo que ya había encarnado en “La ventana indiscreta” (1954). “La historia de nuestra película me interesaba mucho menos que el efecto final, visual, del actor en la pantalla en el film acabado”, le explicaba Hitch a Novak y, por ello, “Vértigo” es también el retrato del poder de fascinación de una imagen y de cómo ésta hace presa a la realidad, como le sucede también a Judy con su enigmática creación de Madeleine.
Para ello, Hitchcock hizo un uso irreal del cromatismo y recurrió a sus conocimientos en el arte surrealista -estudió Bellas Artes-, su pasión por el psicoanálisis -al que introdujo en el cine con “Recuerda” en 1945- y a la inestimable ayuda de la música “wagneriana” de Bernard Herrmann y los créditos de Saul Bass, que remataron el hipnótico conjunto. “Es la culminación de un proceso creador que sobrevuela, perpetuamente, sobre dos abismos y sobre el impulso que los une y los separa: el amor y la muerte”, sentenciaba Ramón G. Redondo en el monográfico que a la película dedicó la desaparecida revista “Nickelodeon”. En esa misma publicación, se rescataba un artículo de John Russell Taylor en “The Times”, que relacionaba la película con la satisfacción como director de su búsqueda personal de la belleza femenina, castrada por su orondo físico. “Es difícil no detectar una extraña semejanza, difícilmente casual, con lo que Hitch ha hecho una y otra vez a sus protagonistas femeninas. ´Vértigo´ se acerca de forma alarmante a una alegoría autobiográfica, a un documento sobre la búsqueda obsesiva por parte de Hitchcock de un ideal, a un cuento de amor perdido y reencontrado”, concluía.
Mateo Sancho Cardiel

This investigation seeks to evaluate the films Vertigo, The Birds and Psycho, all directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and how the success of these films show his effect on pop culture. The first component of this paper outlines Hitchcock’s techniques in the three films and describes how he used the techniques to instill fear. The reaction and degree of success to these films is measured through the impact of these techniques, the number of ticket sales, and the similarities between these three films and the horror films of today. Several sources are used in this research paper, including The Horror Film and the Alfred Hitchcock Interviews. These sources are then evaluated by discussing their origins, purpose, value and limitations. I will also view the films Vertigo, The Birds, and Psycho, to evaluate the techniques used and to gain a better understanding of his work.

 

B. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

 

In a 1972 interview with the American Film Institute, Hitchcock stated that, in his films, he sought “to handle the material so as to create an emotion in the audience.” Hitchcock’s movies are teemed with techniques used to instill fear within the audience. For example, when Psycho first came out, no one was allowed to enter the theater after the movie had started (this was unusual during the 1960s). In a 1963 interview with Ian Cameron, he said, “I’m more interested in the technique of story telling by means of film rather than in what the film contains.” As the director and often times the producer, Hitchcock used every factor to his advantage, from the sound and camera angles, to the setting and circumstances surrounding the situation.

 

Vertigo was released in 1958 and starred James Stewart and Kim Novak. The story involves Stewart playing “Scottie” a retired detective who has an obsession with a woman, played by Novak, and a fear of heights. Vertigo is “a sensation of irregular or whirling motion, either of oneself or of external objects” . Scottie experiences this when he is faced with heights. To convey this state of dizziness, Hitchcock used camera movements to exaggerate the distance from the top of a bell-tower. He later explained that this was done by “dollying in and zooming out.” At the time, this was considered a new special effect. The vibrant color of the film also increased its appeal.

 

Another Hitchcock masterpiece was The Birds, with Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. Hitchcock described the theme of the film as “too much complacency in the world: that people are unaware that catastrophe surrounds us all.” Even though the monsters were only birds, it still terrified audiences with its everyday scenario. The most notable scare tactic is sound. Although Hitchcock integrated several other effects such as animation, it is the orchestrated sound effects that top it off. The soundtrack, composed by Bernard Hermann, is an eerie compilation of deadly silence and electronic bird noises. Hitchcock explains the silences as “a sort of monotonous low hum” that meant, in bird language, “we’re not ready to attack you yet, but we’re getting ready.”

 

The MacGuffin is defined as “refer to an item, event, or piece of knowledge that the characters in a film consider extremely important, but which the audience either doesn’t know of or doesn’t care about.” Basically, the MacGuffin is something that the story line is built upon, but it has no significant purpose. The MacGuffin is a technique in Hitchcock’s development of the plot in many of his films, but its use is perfected in none other than Psycho. Released in 1960, the film featured Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates and Janet Leigh as Marion. Bates is a shy, taxidermist, who is controlled by his domineering mother and runs the Bates Hotel. Marion is famously killed off early on, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. In the first half, the movie centers on the $40,000 that Marion stole. Yet when the movie is over, that money is the last thing on the audience’s mind. The MacGuffin was the money, but it was only needed to shift the setting to the Bates Hotel. Hitchcock did this to throw the audience off track and make the impact of Bates’ psychotic actions tenfold.

 

C. EVALUATION OF SOURCES

 

The Horror Film was written by Peter Hutchings and was published in 2004. Hutchings works at Northumbria University as a senior lecturer of Film Studies. In the preface, he explains that his book deals with longstanding issues in horror films such as “genre definition, the role played by the monster, the uses (and abuses) of psychoanalytical theory in horror analysis, the extent to which horror is preoccupied with questions of other-ness and differences” (Hutchings, xii). The value of this book is its recent publication in 2004. Hutching’s book contains information of the most recent developments in horror films and the text is written in contemporary language that I can understand. Hutching’s viewpoint has the advantage of an up-to-date perspective. The limitation of this book, however, is its mindset. Perhaps the writer’s analysis is too objective.

 

Hutchings defines “the” horror film with caution. He is careful to distinguish each component of the horror film. He develops his analysis through chapters like “The Sounds of Horror” and “Terror in the Isles: Horror’s audiences.” While the breakdown of this genre is useful for a generic approach, I find that he does not really concentrate on certain films. Not much information is provided about Hitchcock’s films besides a sentence or two in each chapter. The author pays attention to earlier films like Dracula and Frankenstein, and the slasher films of the 70s, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Halloween series; nothing really in between.

 

Sidney Gottlieb edited the Alfred Hitchcock Interviews. Gottlieb is one of the many editors in the Conversations with Filmmakers Series. He has compiled several other director interviews for the series. In the introduction, he explains that he “tried to cover Hitchcock’s entire career” (Gottlieb, x). The editor does so by including interviews from Hitchcock’s early years in the 1920s to the late 1970s. The value of this book is that the reader is able to look at Hitchcock during different periods of his careers, from when he was just starting out, to the years when he was declared a living legend. The limitations to this book are very little; the interviews provide a look inside the very mind of Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Gottlieb is very straightforward with the material he has gathered; no information is provided but the interviews themselves. The lack of information is a little confusing at times, because one might want to know the exact time, location, or circumstances surrounding each interview. Other than that, this raw presentation of Hitchcock’s words is a very refreshing approach and allows the reader to identify with Hitchcock very easily.

 

D. ANALYSIS

 

When Vertigo was originally released in 1958, it was not a box-office success. Yet Hitchcock’s development of the story and the techniques he used to make the film stand out to this day. Vertigo has been attributed as one of his greatest achievements. It wasn’t until Universal Pictures’ re-released in 1983 that the film began to gather the acclaim it deserved. The American Film Institute rated it #61 on their list of the 100 Greatest American Films.

 

Hitchcock’s technique of combining both zooming in and dollying back in Vertigo has been imitated in other movies such as Jaws and Evil Dead II. During the late 1950s, this camera movement was considered a new special effect. The result was a spiraling staircase that heightened the dramatic change in perspective and the sense of the character’s fear of heights. This technique was just another factor that drew in audiences. The distinct style of Vertigo distinguishes itself from other horror films at the time and the way Hitchcock scared people separates him from other directors. It kept him ahead of the game, because no one else had used a technique like that before, and to this day, Vertigo is credited as the first film that use the “dolly out, zoom in” camera technique. Modern critics are impressed with the aesthetic quality of the film and applaud Hitchcock’s development of the characters.

 

It is in The Birds, that Hitchcock, yet again, cleverly uses a technique of his to scare the audience and does so effectively. The use of sound in The Birds constantly switches, utilizing both noise and silence. Hitchcock did this to create suspense and fear, not only when the birds were attacking, but also when they weren’t. The idea of fear arising from an everyday occurrence (encountering birds) terrified audiences in 1963. Hitchcock also once said that it was the movie’s “attack upon complacency” that scared people the most. He did not use natural bird sounds. Instead, he implemented “electronic re-workings of bird sound”, which worked even better to scare audiences. It did very well at the box-office, grossing over $11 million. Hitchcock’s use of normal circumstances added to the fear and potential reality of the film. The new concept of nature attacking provided a basis for other films after its release. In the 1970s, there was a burst of nature’s revenge films, such as The Empire of the Ants in 1977, the Night of the Lepus in 1972 and The Bees in 1979. A sequel was made in 1994, called The Birds II: Land’s End. Mel Brooks parodied it in his 1978 film High Anxiety as did Peter Greenaway in The Falls.

 

Psycho amassed a total of $32 million at the box-office. It is Hitchcock’s most well known film. There are so many elements to Psycho that are easily identified by today’s audiences. From the shrieking violin music to the famous kill off of Janet Leigh’s character to the insanity of Norman Bates. Psycho’s effect is still very much prevalent in our culture today. Hitchcock’s coined term, MacGuffin, has been used in several other movies like Pulp Fiction. The famous violin music is synonymous with terror, and was even used in Finding Nemo to introduce a jokingly horrific 10-year-old girl. The shower scene, where Janet Leigh’s character is killed, has been parodied in films such as Scream 2 and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The movie itself has been remade twice, and there were two sequels made in the 80s. The house where the 1998 remake was made still stands in Universal Studios for tourists to see. Undoubtedly, Psycho has left its mark due to the ingenuity of Alfred Hitchcock.

 

E. CONCLUSION

 

Hitchcock has established a distinct style in each of his films. In Vertigo, he invented a visually stunning picture that captured the audience’s attention. His use of camera movements and color marked a turning point in cinematography of the late 1950s. The aesthetic and haunting quality of the film continually draw contemporary audiences to the ingenuity of the film. In the Birds, Hitchcock used the sound of the birds, whether they were there or not, to scare audiences in a whole new way. The combination of normalcy and unexpected terror ushered in new films that used the same concepts but with different situations. In Psycho, Hitchcock introduced underlying themes such as incest and necrophelia that shocked audiences, along with Norman Bates’ shared personality with his mother.

 

Hitchcock’s techniques he used to develop his films not only make them famous but they still fascinate people. His effect on pop culture has stood strong with Vertigo, The Birds, and Psycho. His films have influenced directors such as Steven Speilberg and Francis Ford Coppola and his face is well known in pop culture. Hitchcock’s films will continue to be timeless classics because they were before their time.

¡Pobre de mi queridísimo Scottie!
Se ha dicho en muchos artículos que Alfred Hitchcock era un genio traumado. Es cierto; sus traumas al parecer llegan más allá que los de una persona normal, según se puede observar. ¿O será que todos tenemos traumas parecidos pero no tenemos la capacidad de reflejarlos tan genialmente para que otros se den cuenta de nuestras insaneidades y nos analicen al mismo tiempo que nos apluadan?. No lo sé; lo que sí se con certeza es que no cualquiera logra hipnotizarte de tal manera y enviciarte al contarte-mostrarte sus traumas y es muy díficil que alguien con sus fobias, miedos, y problemas te enganche de tal manera que seas tú el que quiere saber más. (Por lo general mandas “a la goma” después de un rato a cualquiera con problemas existenciales que se pase de la raya tanto como lo haría Fredy si fuera una persona “normal”).
Hitchcock tiene una manera particular de hacer las cosas, es cierto que repite características en sus películas, pero eso es una especie de “toque particular” que lo distingue de cualquiera. Si bien ese hombre estaba traumado, dentro de éste film se observan muchos de esos traumas que me llaman la atención y me veré invitada por mi propio enviciamiento e intriga a tratar a continuación.
Primero que nada el muy mencionado y sabido tema de obsesión por rubias despampanantes. No se exactamente qué es lo que este hombre quería o buscaba con estas mujeres. Es cierto que siempre son mujeres a la moda, refinadas, hermosas, con un toque de misticismo y elegancia que llena por lo general la pantalla. Obviamente como en todas sus películas, las mujeres son rebajadas, maltratadas, siempre hechas a menos pero contradictoriamente sin ellas simplemente no habría película. Son las “importantes malditas” por así decirlo, las protagionistas de los fetiches de un director que necesita de su encanto para exhibir los peores infortunios. En Vertigo podemos observar cómo la belleza de ésta mujer y la insistencia a lo rubio de su cabello, manía o no de Alfred reflejada obviamente en Scottie (James Stewart), es una de las claves esenciales para el desarrollo del film.
Sin embargo, aunque la víctima principal es Madeleine Elster y posteriormente Judy Barton (Kim Novak), Scottie por su parte es el que más sufre de todos, desde mi punto de vista. Creo que Scottie, al momento de enamorarse de Madeleine y crear realidades alternas por su enamoramiento no está consciente de lo que sucede, por ello no tiene conciencia real del problema y gracias a eso lo agranda tanto que tiende a fantasear y revolver las cosas, creando un vertigo de ideas al espectador. Si bien Judy es la que muere y es la que tiene conflictos acerca de su personalidad y sufre al convertirse en Madeleine la segunda parte, todo lo hace consciente, lo acepta porque ama a Scottie, mientras que Scottie está totalmente obsesionado con Madeleine y todo lo hace de manera poco racional. Racional contra irracional emula a las dos partes del espejo también. Sufrir conscientemente e inconscientemente sufrir se parece pero no es lo mismo.
La película como ya se dijo está dividida esencialmente en dos partes; los dos lados del espejo. La primera mitad muestra la historia base para crear la intriga, los momentos cruciales en los que Scottie se enamora de Madeleine para que después, en la segunda parte, la pueda alucinar como se debe a través de espejos. Creo que siempre o casi siempre la ve a través de espejos porque es necesario que se refleje “el otro yo” de Judy, osea Madeleine, de la que realmente está enamorada. El trabajar con el concepto de “espejo” y crear realidades alternas iguales pero diferentes (Madeleine-Judy) me parece que es una manera de jugar también con las ideas del espectador e invitarlo a crear varias teorías.
Me parece interesante que en versión española si se haya traducido como “De entre los muertos” porque literalmente Scottie está entre muertos, no sólo porque Madeleine esté poseida por Carlota (que es la muerta más obvia) sino que Judy está poseida por Madeleine (muerta secundaria) y ambas tres son la misma persona que curiosamente juega con los tiempos de vida de Scottie a tal grado que llega un momento en la película que Scottie no es capaz de distinguir quién es quién porque son la misma. En la escena del beso, que como ya se dijo, curiosamente la toma es en espiral, los tiempos y los lugares se mezclan en una atmósfera de sueño y realidad. El éxtasis y la entrega de ella y lo confundido de él en el hotel, al mezclar las cosas. En contraste de la entrega de él y lo confundido de ella en la caballeriza, escena que se mezcla con la del hotel. El espejo, al igual que el espiral, siempre está presente.
Más que la vida de él como un espejo roto, me pareció que los espejos rotos mencionados en el pasillo eran más acerca de la vida de ella. Para mi lo que está roto es un todo que se divide en partes; por lo mismo, Carlota-Madeleine-Judy son partes de un todo referente a una mujer que abarca todos los tiempos. El hecho de que haya espejos rotos es como decir yo como espejo me reflejo en otro espejo porque a fin de cuentas somos tres en una. Nunca va a poder haber una imagen fidedigna sin las otras dos y eso implica un infinito de posibilidades que a la vez crean una especie de vértigo horizontal que marea a cualquiera.
Después de lo dicho me atrevo a repetir lo dicho al principio ¡Pobre de mi queridísimo Scottie!, el hecho de mostrar al personaje con acrofobia, es la manera más directa de Hitchcock de explicar con peras y manzanas que el pobre hombre no va a aguantar y se va a quebrar ante los desastres de ésta mujer dividida en tres ante la cual tuvo el infortunio de caer y peor aún de enamorarse. Si yo hubiera sido él, hubiera tomado en cuenta los letreros que había siempre en los hoteles donde ella se hospedaba, el curioso “one way” que sobresale al principio diciendo, “nimodo, ella es el único camino por ahora” y el “fire escape” de la segunda parte diciendo “-Si te vas por ahí te vas a quemar, mejor escapa”.
En general, el asunto está basado en una historia de engaño y traición que reflejan en un tono muy melancólico y dramático a un hombre desesperado, apasionado, enamorado, obsesionado y necrofílico envuelto en tonos verdes y rojos que dominan la pantalla la mayor parte del tiempo, así como las atmósferas de misticismo, auras fantasmales, las sombras y los personajes a contra luz así como las escenas oscuras que te llevan al suspenso. Lo que más sobresale son como ya se dijo, los espejos, las flores, las ventanas, y siempre los autos están presentes.
No me parece que se haya mostrado en una invención toda la segunda parte, lo que si creo es que él inventa a la amiga. Es una especie de conciencia, de ideal que siempre ha deseado que viene a desaparecer una vez que es sustituído por su obsesión. Lo curioso es que ése ideal imaginario es también una especie de conciencia con conciencia propia y busca de alguna manera volver a ganar su afecto intentando parecerse a la obsesión de Scottie en el cuadro donde se pinta a manera de parodia como Carlotta. De nuevo el espejo en otro contexto totalmente diferente, podría decirse que hasta Scottie busca de manera inconsciente ciertas cualidades de su ideal imaginario dentro de su obsesión.
Lo que más me intrigó es cómo el espectador acepta con tal facilidad el hecho de que él está afuera de nuevo sin saber cómo salió, aligual que acepta que se salvó de la caida. Es curioso cómo se cierra la puerta después de que ella sale del consultorio del doctor (donde se ve claramente que no existe porque si existiera la indiferencia con la que salió y la manera del portazo no serían posibles) y la frase que le dice a Scottie casi al final “don’t worry your MOM is here”… o ella estaba más loca enfermizamente enamorada de él y tenía un complejo de Wendy que ni el mismísimo Peter Pan se creería, o eran atributos que él le cedió como personaje imaginario.
Si tuviera que escoger un cuadro al que me recordara ésta película sería el de Ofelia de Millais, la imagen de ella con los pétalos de rosa tirada en la bahía me hacen pensar en esa mujer dramática inerte con rostro dulce entre patético y tierno.
Con esto concluyo mi análisis de Vertigo. Espero no haber hecho algo muy tedioso de leer.
Hasta pronto y mucha magia.
Makitara.
Texto Original:

At the very beginning of Lou Ye’s Suzhou River (Sūzhōu Hé) the unnamed and unseen narrator and protagonist whom works as a freelance cameraman tells the viewer that he is fine filming anything just so long as the client doesn’t complain. His camera, he says, shows things the way that they are. This statement recalls that famous one of Bruno Forestier in Godard’s Le Petit Soldat (his second feature film and first to star his muse and future wife, Anna Karina), “La photographie, c’est la vérité, et le cinéma, c’est vingt-quatre fois la vérité par seconde” – “Photography is truth, and cinema is truth 24 times per second”. A pretty sentiment, but ever since the first images were commited to film, artifice has always had a hold on the camera. Amongst the earliest films of the Lumière brothers, we see that iconic scene in which a train pulls up to the station, a real event no doubt, but there is a bias there in the timing and the editing that presents the scene as one singular event. Even documentaries, which by their very nature attain a sort of higher level of truthfulness, engage in a similar kind of bias and we should always be wary of their honesty, a lesson learned from Flahery’s Nanook of the North (although, it must be noted Cinéma vérité attempts to correct these problems). The image that we see on the screen, however truthful, is always through the camera’s eye, making the truth as murky as the river after which Lou Ye’s film is named. Artifice is at the heart of Suzhou River.

 

The film is clearly influenced by Hitchcock’s Vertigo, another film that heavily relies on artifice as a narrative technique. In the film, former detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (played by the all-American Jimmy Stewart) is hired by an old acquaintance to watch his wife, Madeline (Kim Novak). The film takes on a voyeuristic quality as Scottie follows her, leading up to a suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge where he jumps into the water to save her. He is however unable to halt her next attempt at suicide due to his vertigo, as she jumps from the tower to her death. As a result, Scottie becomes depressed and begins to haunt the places where he used to see her even though he knows she cannot possibly be her; he becomes obsessed with finding her, and then on the street he sees Judy Barton (also played by Novak), Madeline’s doppelgänger. In her dual role, Novak underscores the artifice that fuels Hitchcock’s film, as she is both the cause and later object of Scottie’s obsession. She fools both Scottie and the viewer, as when taken at sight alone, the truth of the image is that she is Madeline. When he finds that isn’t the case, Scottie tries to transform Judy into Madeline in an attempt to make that truth a reality. The untangling of that artifice in the film’s dénouement lifts the veil from our eyes and reveals the actual truth behind the film’s mystery.

 

 

Lou’s film, like Hitchcock’s, revolves around a love affair that borders on obsession. The narrator tells us the story of Mardur, a motorcycle courier hired to transport Moudan (played by one of the four young Dan actresses, Zhou Xun) to her aunt’s and back when her rich father is entertaining one of his mistresses. During these encounters the pair fall in love, but things go sour when Mardar becomes involved in a plot to kidnap her for ransom with a former lover and another man. After the ransom is paid, Moudan runs away with Mardur giving chase, ending in a jump from a bridge that mirrors that ofVertigo, only this time Mardur doesn’t save Moudan as he can’t find her after jumping into the water after her. Years later, after serving some time in prison for the kidnapping, he returns to Shanghai to look for her and the cinematography begins to take on a voyeuristic feel. Unlike the steady camera work and beautiful settings of Hitchcock, Suzhou River’s is very urban and gritty, with a sort of shaky camerawork that recalls Christopher Doyle’s work in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express. Mardur’s search eventually leads him to the narrator’s girlfriend, Meimei (also played by Zhou Xun), a go-go dancer who performs as a mermaid in one of the city’s dive bars.

 

Mardar’s obsession with finding Moudan transfers to Meimei despite her insistence that she does not know him, and both the viewer and Mardur are left wondering as to the truth. The artifice of the scene, the seemingly impossible similarity between Moudan and Meimei, makes the pair inseparable. Meimei’s role as a mermaid, a theme that runs throughout the film as people on the river report seeing a mermaid after Moudan’s jump from the bridge, is also interesting in that it is a Western concept. It is rather indicative of the sixth generation’s move away from the fifth’s fixation on Chinese problems (in films like Chen Kiage’s Yellow Earth and Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorgum) towards more global ideas. In this way, Lou takes in American influences like Vertigo and film noir and produces something, that while lacking the power of Hitchcock’s film, succeeds as an interesting film. The fact that it’s ending diverges from Hitchcock’s, does do it some favours. As Rosenbaum notes, the film succeeds as a sort post-modern fairy tale, as a meditation on the role of narration and artifice in film. Artifice is something that we can perhaps never get away from, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing, it just adds another layer to our experience of the film.