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‘Vertigo’ shimmers in 70mm at the Castro

Since moving to San Francisco a mere two weeks ago, just about everyone I’ve met has sung the praises of the Castro Theatre, deeming it the place to go for anyone who truly loves the movies.

After attending last night’s 70mm screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful Vertigo, I can say with certainty that the beloved theatre lives up to the booming hype.

As is the case with many wonderful older films (i.e. Lawrence of Arabia), Vertigo is a piece of art that should be experienced in a theater – preferably one with a large screen, quality surround sound, and an attentive, respectful crowd.

Aside from a grungy looking, potentially homeless man who stumbled into the theater three-quarters of the way into the movie — insisting on yelling absolute nonsense at the screen — Monday night was a harmonious confluence of the aforementioned attributes.

In fact, the only thing better than the facility and audience was, naturally, the film.

Equally heartbreaking and heart-wrenching, Vertigo – about a detective with acrophobia (John “Scottie” Ferguson played by Jimmy Stewart) who is brought out of retirement to investigate the mysterious activities of a childhood friend’s wife (Madeleine played by Kim Novak) – is a groundbreaking work by the master of suspense set in our very own San Francisco.

Simultaneously a tragic love story and a murky psychological head-spinner, this 1958 gem showcases Hitchcock at his most refined and assured — each scene is textured, each line of dialogue is laced with either an impacting metaphor or a witty  zinger, and each character is intricately designed.

The fact that Vertigo has stood the test of the time is no surprise; that it is still revered by critics and the movie-going public at large (including the enthusiastic Castro audience) gives hope to the future of cinema.

Thanks to dependably ingenious curation by the Castro Theatre, more great events are on the way. Keep an eye out for a Marry Poppins sing along (September 6 and 7), a Scanners/ The Manchurian Candidate double bill (September 13), a Karen Black tribute (September 18) and much more.

For now, I’d like to think last night’s screening of Vertigo at the Castro was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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