I’ve been looking through Antoinio Bruschini and Antonio Tentori’s Sotto gli occhi dell’assassino, which picks up where Profondo tenebre left off by examining the giallo from 1983 through to 2001.
Discussing Trauma they compare the sequence in which the severed head of Dr Lloyd falls down a lift shaft, screaming, to the Scottie Ferguson dream sequence in Vertigo. It’s an apt comparison given the similarities between Argento’s and Hitchcock’s films elsewhere, both having an unusually compromised and ineffectual male; a female presented as suicidal, who seemingly kills herself; and the vision of a distinctive piece of jewellery that leads the male to the truth.
What it also got me thinking about was the frequently heard criticism that the sequence in the Argento film is silly compared to the apparent lack of such comments regarding Vertigo.
From my experience contemporary audiences respond to the sequences in similar ways, unable to take them seriously and tending to laugh in that “it’s so bad” way.
But I can’t remember hearing much criticism of the Vertigo sequence or critical responses saying that it’s the kind of thing which prevents the film from being a masterpiece, a negative which has to be scored against the technical achievement of the famous vertigo effect track and zoom and as a demonstration / reminder that Hitchcock’s experiments didn’t always come off.
Is it that the positioning of the sequence as dream / nightmare / vision allows it to get away with being less than convincing? If so, why isn’t this same courtesy extended to, say, the skeleton at the end of Inferno? Or is it more a reluctance to express a different opinion, to say that the Vertigo dream is frankly kitsch rather than art, say? Is it too much to ask for consistency? (Yes)