The strangest and most obsessive of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers, Vertigo has fascinated assorted movie buffs, philosophers and psychiatric professionals since its release in 1958 -- not least because this tangled tale about an acrophobic ex-detective on the trail of an old friend's beautiful wife suggests that reinventing a living woman as the exact replica of a dead one is the kind of thing that happens more often than we think, at least on the streets of San Francisco. For its narrative complexity, the beauty of its images and its haunting Bernard Herrmann score, Vertigo has long been considered a masterpiece whose depths are still being plumbed. Some film historians speculate that star Kim Novak never knew what she was getting into, fetishism-wise, and that leading man James Stewart, too, remained baffled by the weird turns Hitchcock's mind took in the heat of the project.
Those interested in tackling the mystery anew will get their chance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, when Denver writer and filmmaker Alexandre Philippe presents Vertigo in the Starz FilmCenter's popular Language of Film Series. This is a kind of study-group experience in which Philippe starts and stops the film at intervals to analyze its construction, meanings and effects. Starz is located in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus; for information, call 303-820-3456 or visit www.denverfilm.org.