Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Going Green

I showed my class Hitchcock's film Vertigo this afternoon. I have taught that film before, but this time I am trying a new paper topic, one that Richard picked up from a student at UCI who had this assignment in a film class. It's a feminist topic, about substituting one woman for another, and what it might mean or show.
The students only have a week to get this thing done. I have done it before in the past, when I had been teaching it all year. But it's been 3 years or more since I have taught it at all and a year since I have taught a film, so it's challenging.
It's a good text to teach though, so complex and twisted, and so full of techniques and themes that pick up those of the previous text in the class. I think they have an instant in to the film because of that. It will make it easier to see those things.
One of the things that I always notice about the film is its use of the color green. Hitchcock bathes the film in this color, particularly in those parts that relate to the counterfeit romance the mad Scottie Ferguson feels for Madeleine Elster. At first it's embodied in a gorgeous silk gown worn by the false Madeleine; the last time we see it though, it's reduced to a tawdry flashing sign outside of the Empire Hotel, where Judy Barton, the Pygmalion-esque woman who played the part of Madeleine, lives. Clearly, Hitchcock wants us to see this romance for what it is, though of course Scottie is too far gone, and can't see that. Yet all the time, and this amuses me most about the film, it's a comment on Hitchcock's own parade of nearly identical blondes in his films. I can't exactly read the film against the grain, arguing that it's a straight sexist text. Hitchcock is already being ironic about the whole affair, commenting on himself and on the culture's substitution of one remade woman for another. Yet there is no one who is innocent in this affair, unless maybe we want to point to the true blonde, Midge, or to the real Madeleine Elster.


Lou said...

I hope your students are loving Hitchcock!

Robbi said...

I don't know yet, but it looked like they were intrigued. We start discussing it tomorrow.