Friday, January 22, 2016

Dialing in the Fantasmatic Coordinates

Often things begin as a fake, inauthentic, artificial, but you get caught into your own game. And that is the true tragedy of Vertigo. It’s a story about two people who, each in his or her own way, get caught into their own game of appearances. For both of them, for Madeleine and for Scottie, appearances win over reality. What is the story of Vertigo? It’s a story about a retired policeman who has a pathological fear of heights because of an incident in his career, and then an old friend hires him to follow his beautiful wife, played by Kim Novak.

The wife mysteriously possessed by the ghost of a past deceased Spanish beauty, Carlotta Valdes. The two fall in love. The wife kills herself. The first part of Vertigo, with Madeleine’s suicide, is not as shattering as it could have been, because it’s really a terrifying loss, but in this very loss, the ideal survives. The idea of the fatal woman possesses you totally. What, ultimately, this image, fascinating image of the fatal woman stands for is death. The fascination of beauty is always the veil which covers up a nightmare. Like the idea of a fascinating creature, but if you come too close to her, you see shit, decay, you see worms crawling everywhere.

The ultimate abyss is not a physical abyss, but the abyss of the depth of another person. It’s what philosophers describe as the night of the world. Like when you see another person, into his or her eyes, you see the abyss. That’s the true spiral which is drawing us in.

Scottie alone, broken down, cannot forget her, wanders around the city looking for a woman, a similar woman, something like the deceased woman, discovers an ordinary, rather vulgar, common girl. The douement of the story, of course,is along the lines of the Marx Brothers’ joke, This man is an idiot. “The newly found woman looks like Madeleine, acts like Madeleine, the fatal beauty. We discover she is Madeleine. What we learn is that Scottie’s friend, who hired Scottie, also hired this woman, Judy, to impersonate Madeleine in a devilish plot to kill the real Madeleine, his wife, and get her fortune.

We could just see a lot of each other.

Why? ‘

Cause I remind you of her? It’s not very complimentary.

The profile shot in Vertigo is perhaps the key shot of the entire film. We have there Madeleine’s, or rather Judy’s, identity in all its tragic tension. It provides the dark background for the fascinating other profile of Madeleine in Ernie’s restaurant. Scottie is too ashamed, afraid to look at her directly. It is as if what he sees is the stuff of his dreams, more real in a way for him than the reality of the woman behind his back.

That’s not very complimentary, either.

I just want to be with you as much as I can, Judy.

When we see a face, it’s basically always the half of it. A subject is a partial something, a face, something we see. Behind it, there is a void, a nothingness. And of course, we spontaneously tend to fill in that nothingness with our fantasies about the wealth of human personality, and so on. To see what is lacking in reality, to see it as that, there you see subjectivity. To confront subjectivity meansto confront femininity. Woman is the subject. Masculinity is a fake. Masculinity is an escape from the most radical, nightmarish dimension of subjectivity.

I’m trying to buy you a suit.
But I love the second one she wore.
And this one, it’s beautiful.
No, no. They’re none of them right.
I think I know the suit you mean.
We had it some time ago.
Let me go and see.
We may still have that model. Thank you.
You’re looking for the suit that she wore, for me.
I know the kind of suitthat would look well on you.
No, I won’t do it!
Judy.It can’t make that much differenceto you.
I just want to see what…

No, I don’t want any clothes.I don’t want anything.
Here we are.-Yes, that’s it. When Judy, refashioned as Madeleine, steps out of the door, it’s like fantasy realised. And, of course, we have a perfect name for fantasy realised. It’s called “nightmare”. Fantasy realised. What does this mean? Of course, it is always sustained by an extreme violence. The violence in this case of Scottie’s brutal refashioning of Judy, a real, common girl, into Madeleine. It’s truly a process of mortification, which also is the mortification of woman’s desire.

It is as if in order to have her, to desire her, to have sexual intercourse with her, with the woman, Scottie has to mortify her, to change her into a dead woman. It’s as if, again, for the male libidinal economy, to paraphrase a well-known old saying, the only good woman is a dead woman. Scottie is not really fascinated by her, but by the entire scene, the staging. He is looking around, checking up, are the fantasmatic co-ordinates really here? At that point when the reality fully fits fantasy, Scottie is finally able to realise the long-postponed sexual intercourse. So the result of this violence is a perfect co-ordination between fantasy and reality. A kind of direct short-circuit.
- Slavoj Zizek, "A Pervert's Guide to Cinema"


FreeThinke said...

Nabokov's work is hardly a perfect parallel to Hitchcock's elegiac, morbidly enthralling phantasmagoria, but I see enough similarity there to make it work with some of Zizek's assertions about the dangers in carrying erotic fantasy too far.

____________ After Lolita ____________

Each thought is little but a stale cliché, as
Lolita, bored coquette too early jaded,
Leaves despondency to dominate the day, as
Coarseness makes buds wither –– too soon faded.

Intellectual acumen stands
Helpless, frozen, gibbering at the sight
Of nascent beauty whose awakening glands
Mock unconsciously the Victim’s plight.

Society won’t see that tragedy
It’s not what happens to the adolescent,
But rather that a soul died helplessly
Before a feral instinct recrudescent.

The Siren’s ancient power still may lure
Free men to become slaves to the impure.

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

___ COULD IT BE ___

Could it be
We need our fantasies
And fond illusions
More than we need
Mundane reality?

Did ancient astronauts
Visit Earth aeons ago,
Plant Colonies - perform
Wondrous Feats of Engineering

Still unexplained?

The eternal Mystery of
The Pyramids - The Sphinx
Stonehenge - Gigantic Chalk Figures,
Discernible only from great heights -
Easter Island - Machu Pichu?

The Origin of Man -
The miracles of Music -
Painting - Sculpture -
Poetry and Thought.

The Star of Bethlehem -
The Virgin Birth - The Magi -
Betrayal, Death and Resurrection?

Patterns of Migration?
Courtship Rituals?
Attachment - Dependency -
Illness - Abandonment -
Grief - Tedium -
Decline - Decay -

The eternal Search
For Acceptance - Appreciation -
Affection - Understanding -


~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

__________ DEPRESSIVE DELUSION ___________

I waited and kept trying, but I never
Achieved the thing I’d hoped I might achieve.
My standards kept me frustrated –– forever
Stymied –– so I can’t myself deceive ––
Or foolishly encourage vain ambition ––
Deny innate inferiority ––
Elude the ghastly clutches of Perdition ––
Professing Greatness is in store for me.
Realizing one has limitations
Exfoliates, denudes, and bares the soul.
Stopping all pretentious imitations
Strips us of the hope our life’s been whole.
Elation, when derived from mere illusion,
Denies fulfillment –– amplifies contusion.

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

Zizek mars his own analysis by failing to acknowledge the warm, comforting, good-humored presence of "Midge," wonderfully played by Barbara Be Geddes.

I know Hitchcock artfully designed this piece so that we would see James Stewart's "Scotty' as a victim of his own fears of inadequacy engendered by the tragic incident on a slippery rooftop where his partner plunged to his death trying to save Scotty. [This being Hollywood, we never do learn how Scotty got off that rooftop where the camera left him hanging precariously looking certain to follow his partner –– a rare flaw in Hitchcock's plotting.] But Scotty is also a victim of his "friend," who knowing Scotty's infirmity, played him for a sucker using the eerie-but-fascinating Madeleine, possibly the "spirit" of the long-dead Carlotta Valdez returned to life, to lure Scotty into the deadly trap that nearly cost him his sanity.

The plot, of course, is utterly preposterous, but it never fails to cast an almost hypnotic spell no matter how many times one has seen the movie. I believe Bernard Herrmann’s haunting, masterfully evocative musical score has a great deal to do with that.

Scotty is hardly a villain, as Zizek’s analysis seems to want to characterize him. I see no “brutality” in his attempt to refashion Judy into “Madeleine,” but he does have one serious flaw. He’s obsessed by a figment of his own imagination. He’s driven by poignant longing for something unreal –– a woman who never existed.

Neither Scotty nor Judy could be considered completely admirable characters. Both were used as pawns by the true villain in the piece –– the “friend” who wanted to get rid of his wife. I suppose we could look at Judy as a villainess, but her unexpected love for Scotty is all too real and certainly functions as a redeeming feature.

I, personally, see Midge as the only heroic of the exercise. She is charming, talented, warm-hearted, has a wonderful sense of humor and is thoroughly grounded in reality, except where her adoration of Scotty is concerned. At the end, which is certainly tragic for poor, not-very-bright Judy, we are pretty well convinced that all is not lost for Scotty. –– Midge will be there again to pick up the pieces and dedicate the rest of her life to mending his broken heart and shattered illusions.

I’ve always like to believe that Scotty will, “discover’ the great treasure he has never comprehended in his “old pal,” Midge, realize that she is what he’s needed all along, marry her and live happily ever after in state of pragmatic contentment.

FreeThinke said...

_____ To a Daughter Smitten _____

Desist, my darling dimwit; do not wed
On impulse born of weather fair this June.
No one should be by sun and roses led.
Only till you’ve weathered a typhoon,
Tornado, or at least a spate of sleet,
Will your prospective mate reveal his soul.
Easy times glide by, deny, delete
Demands that demonstrate a nature whole.
Intoxicated by the scents of spring
No common sense could nonsense overwhelm.
Joy seems imminent, yet blistering
Unhappiness might well be at the helm.
None a nun would have you be, and yet
Eden is not ours to gain, my pet.

~ FreeThinke, The Sandpiper

-FJ said...


-FJ said...

FreeThinke said...

This ought to warm the cockles of your heart during your current oredeal:


Yield:10 to 12 servings


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch salt
Bottle dark rum
Boiling water


In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir well, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2002

Mrs. Grundy said...

You might just be on to something, FT! :)

-FJ said...


WomanHonorThyself said...

I will check this out..perfect for this snowy day!! xoxoxo

-FJ said...

Stay warm, Angel! I hear the NYC got hammered, too!