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April 03, 2015 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Friday, April 3, 2015 — 5

Why ‘Vertigo’ is the
best film of all time


masterpiece is a
complex vortex
worth falling for


Managing Arts Editor

When I tell people “Vertigo” is

my favorite film, their immediate
reaction is to look at me like I’m
the world’s most pretentious ass-
hole. They are probably right. As
a film major and general purveyor
of taste, I favor movies that are
sublimely written and directed,
and “Vertigo” is about as complex
and masterful as film can get. It’s
objectively perfect in every way,
every flower and green neon sign
and mirror hanging on the wall
imbued with endless meaning and
psychological underpinnings.

But none of this is why “Verti-

go” is my favorite movie. “Vertigo”
is mostly analyzed as a collection
of discrete parts — little pieces like
a word or an image or a single sym-
bol. These elements are fascinat-
ing, and the technicalities alone
are enough to merit being called
the Greatest Film of All Time, but
it’s the black reality buried under
all the layers of analysis that make
“Vertigo” so transcendent. It’s
about deadly relationships; within
the overblown and lurid story of
Scottie and Madeleine is a devas-
tating truism about what it means
to fall in love. “Vertigo” is about a
man who can’t fucking get over a
woman he fell for who didn’t recip-
rocate, and that man’s endless,
tragic chasing of a girl who might
come close to filling her shoes. The
film speaks to the universalities of
heartbreak, painting a portrait of
deceitful and one-sided love in a
way no other film could or has.

Scottie Ferguson spies her from

across the bar at a restaurant. Clad
in royal green and standing against
a passionate red background, she
is the most beautiful woman he’s
ever seen. She is stunning, and I do
not blame him for chasing her. But
what Scottie doesn’t know is that
the stunning Madeleine Elster he
falls for is a construction. Gavin
Elster, an old college friend of
Scottie’s, hired a woman to imper-
sonate his wife in order to distract
Scottie, to be a beautiful diversion
to cover up Gavin’s premeditated
murder of his actual wife. Mad-
eleine appears to be a sad case:
She’s acting strangely, and she may
be in danger of harming herself, so
Gavin sets his buddy Scottie on the
quest to save her life.

Though Scottie maintains his

distance for most of the first half
of the movie, and Madeleine’s gen-
erally aloof attitude keeps any of
Scottie’s advances at bay, he falls
for her while he’s a few feet away.
Scottie is a former cop, with his
heroism dimmed after a vertigo-
related failure on the job. He lives
in an apartment with his friend
Midge, who has always been more
like a mother or a therapist than a
romantic partner. In short, Scot-
tie is down on his luck, what a

film scholar might call “symboli-
cally castrated” but which I’ll call
just “sad and pathetic.” Madeleine
could be the redemption act he’s
looking for. If anyone is more hope-
less than Scottie, it’s this woman:
She stands in a graveyard, stares
lifelessly at a painting and wan-
ders through the city without any
lucid information as to where she’s
going. She senses some strange
connection between herself and
a painting in the museum, a lady
who died too young and whose
hair and accessory choices are
uncannily similar to Madeleine’s
own. Madeleine needs Scotty, or
at least pretends to. With a look of
helplessness in her eyes, she seems
to say, “I’m your depressive pixie
dream girl, and you’re the only guy
who’s man enough to save me.”

Scottie doesn’t save her. In a

fit of passion, Madeleine throws
herself off a tower and falls to her
death, forever out of Scottie’s life
before he could marry her, fix her
or fuck her. Scottie falls into a deep
depression, the kind that can only
be possible for men who lose the
woman they love. He goes through
the motions: He talks to Midge,
goes to the flower shop, waits
around the streets for his ephem-
eron of a woman to appear and
tell him she’s sorry and she loves
him and she didn’t mean to hurt
him so. But while he’s standing
there in front of the flower shop,
Scottie spots a woman who looks
mysteriously like his beloved Mad-
eleine. Well, not really. Her hair is
darker, her eyebrows filled in and
lips rouged; she is a vulgar and less
refined version of Madeleine. Scot-
tie doesn’t care. He’ll make of her
what he wants.

The last third of the film, when

Scottie decides to mold Judy into
this fiction of a woman, is one of
the most tragic stories I’ve seen
on film. The horror is detailed
from both perspectives. Scottie is
blinded by his unrequited love for
Madeleine, a love that was impos-
sible from the start because she
was a fiction. Judy inexplicably
pines for Scottie, having fallen for
him while playing the part of Mad-
eleine in the first half of the movie.
But she knows he’ll never take her
the way she is, the whole appeal
of Madeleine was her coldness,
distance and impossibility. Her
only hope of catching his attention
again is to let him dye her hair, pick
out her clothes and transform her
into the woman he really loves.

It’s agonizing to watch, because

the film shoves your face into
the tragedy and makes you feel
every sting of each new gray gar-
ment and plucked eyebrow. It’s so
affecting because this situation is
all too common. To some degree,
in order to find common ground
for a relationship, you have to
play Judy. You have to erode
your edges, become a blank slate
so the other person can project
the person they need upon your
empty, eager visage. You allow
yourself to occupy the space of
another woman and let someone
construct you into what he wants
and needs — until he remembers
that you’re not her, and never will
be. The most brutal feeling in the
world is knowing that your own
looks, interests and hobbies will
never be enough for the person
you love. They’ll always be chas-
ing the ghost of that ideal person
they could never have. All that’s
left to do is be the cool girl and
wait for the inevitable fall.

“Vertigo” is so brilliant because

it realizes that this situation is
fucked for every party involved.
Scottie is a pawn in Gavin Elster’s
plot to murder the real Madeleine,
a silly fool who was sucked into
Judy’s vortex of lies. He loses
every drop of composure and
power associated with being a cop,
or even just a man. Judy plays the
role of another woman twice over,
first impersonating Madeleine and
watching the man she grew to love
fall for this falsified version of her-
self. After Madeleine’s death, Judy
lets her hair out of its knot and
takes off the disguise, but only for
a moment — Scottie takes her over,
dresses her up again and promises
his love only for this flat sketch of
a woman. “Vertigo” is probably at
the top of all those Greatest Film
polls because of its narrative and
symbolic complexity, but for me,
the real marker of a great film is
that gut punch of truth it delivers.
Nothing can top “Vertigo.”

I know. I’m pretentious as hell.

But please, try to find me another
movie that comments this viscer-
ally about the tragic trickery of
mismatched love. Please find me
another movie so rich in cinemat-
ographic style that I could write
another 1,000 words on its use of
color alone. Collect your recom-
mendations. Email them to me. I’ll
be the judge of whether they live
up to “Vertigo” ’s delicious inscru-
tability and challenge, though I
predict nothing will ever reach the
heights of my true love.


I’d like that profile picture.

Europe’s best dressed



Daily Arts Writer

I heard many different things

before coming to Europe, spe-
cifically Italy. Watch out for
the pickpocketers. Don’t talk
to strangers. Be careful trav-
eling. Don’t walk around at
night alone. So on and so forth.
But perhaps the most repeated
warning was to beware of Euro-
pean men.

We’ve all heard the stereo-

types. They are in books, mov-
ies, songs, television, etc. I
mean, I’ve seen the episode of
“Full House” with Uncle Jesse’s
(not so) distant relative Stavros
from Greece. He was creepy.
And OK, there are creepy Euro-
pean men lurking the streets
catcalling and hissing (yup)
at girls, but creepy people are
everywhere. What’s not every-
where is men who look like they

came straight out of a Gucci ad.
You have to look at the glass
half full and look at the posi-
tive, because the number of
good-looking guys definitely
outweighs the creeps.

Now I know some people

antiquate “hipster” style with
Goodwill and garage sales, but
I associate it with an urban
coffee-lover type of vibe, and so
to me the European man is the
original hipster. Before being
hipster was even a term, before
it got twisted into becoming an
excuse to hate everyone, every-
thing mainstream and brand
name soap.

Men here walk around with a

certain vibe to them. They take
care of their appearance but not
in a vain or outrageous way, like
an episode of “Jersey Shore.”
They never look like they spent
two hours perfecting their per-
fectly coiffed hair, but they prob-

ably did (how else can one attain
that level of perfection?!). And
their style is a unique expression
of their character and personal-
ity. It’s also somewhat of a game.
Young people our age in Italy
are more than often still living
with their parents, most of them
won’t even move out and get jobs
until their late 20s to early 30s.
So the hot guy you see roaming
the streets in his perfectly fitted
suit with his perfectly coiffed
hair, who basically looks like a
million bucks, is probably home
by 8:00 every night for his mam-
ma’s homemade pasta.

Now, don’t get me wrong,

there are still some guys around
Europe who would never stand
out in a crowd, speaking strictly
in terms of fashion, of course.
However, there’s just some-
thing about the European man
that makes them far superior to
any other.

‘Jenny’ is damn good


For The Daily

You know that spot on your

knee that hurts when you push
it? It’s not bruised or anything,
but it hurts.
You press on
it anyway. You

the pain’s not
going be there

press, but it is
and, somehow,
you relish in
the pain that you just wished
wasn’t there. It’s not bad after
all, the pain, but it’s noticeable.
You begin to bargain with your-
self, once more, then you’re done,
you tell yourself. You give it one
last push, harder and more pain-
ful than all of the ones before.
Of course you don’t stop push-
ing after the final push. Eventu-
ally you find yourself going from
your spot-pushed knees to fetal
position caught in a meta-exis-
tential crisis over why you can’t
abide by evolution’s kindly-gift-
ed, longevity-producing aver-
sion to pain. This is Death Grips.

This March, Death Grips

released the two disced, post-
humous album Powers That B,
coming after their controversial
disbandment-by-napkin-note in
early July. Disc one, titled Nig-
gas on the Moon, was released
for free download last summer
and faced generally positive
reviews. All of Niggas’s tracks
feature vocal samples of Nor-
wegian musician Björk, an avid
Death Grips fan. Her distinct
voice loses its recognizability,
but complements Death Grips’s
experimental soundscape. Jenny
Death, the second disc of Pow-
ers That B, is slightly longer
than Niggas on the Moon, and
definitely harnesses a differ-
ent energy. While Niggas on the
Moon is heavily digital and rela-
tively calmed, to accommodate
Björk’s vocals, Jenny Death is
energetically voluminous and

Jenny is the stronger of the two.
Death Grips’s rock-incorpora-
tive approach to this second disc
proves to lend something inter-
esting to their sound.

Jenny Death opens with previ-

ously released “I Break Mirrors
With My Face In The United
States.” A music video for “IBM-
WMYITUS” made its way to
YouTube a couple days before the
release of Jenny Death. The video,
shot from the perspective of vari-
ous, instrument-mounted, fish-
eye cameras, fits the disorienting
music well. The album starts in
the expected Death Grips style:

handed drums and aggressive
lawnmower synths. The implica-
tions of the track’s title are rather
obvious, and repetitive lyrics
intone the track’s theme.

Moving on, “Inanimate Sen-

sation” begins with pitch-climb-
ing vocal samples that remind

of the “Hustle Bones” intro.
The vocal rhythms in the first
verse are playfully sing-songy in
the way a shotgun would sing a
nursery rhyme and the inflamed
synths throb along with a pulse.
The song is full of pop culture
references. In the last verse, MC
Ride, the bands singer, referenc-
es Guns ‘n’ Roses frontmen, pos-
sibly relating Death Grip’s sound
to “Axl Rose in a blender” and
“Slash on Satan’s Fender,” fore-
shadowing rock ‘n’ roll themes
that come to dominate the latter
half of the disc.

For a short while, “Turned

Off” gives the listener time to
cool off after “Inanimate Sen-
sation.” A tasteful, solo guitar
opens the disc’s third track,
but when the verse drops, Andy

trades his lawnmower for a jet
engine and Zach Hill (drums)
whales on his crash cymbal. The

begin to surface in “Turned
Off.” The first verse is perhaps
the most interesting part of the
song. It deviates away from rap’s
overwhelming preference for
a four four time signature and
opts for a fatal six feel — a nice
musical choice that intrigues the
time signature savvy and also
showcases the musicianship and
versatility of the genre defying
group. With a Yeezus-reminis-
cent vocal sample intro, “Why A
Bitch Gotta Lie” picks up right
where “Turned Off” ends. The
two tracks seem to grapple with
the similar musical ideas.

“Pss Pss” and “Powers That

B” backpedal along the Death
Grips spectrum to find the

wavelengths. Hill uses an elec-
tronic drumset in both tracks
and Ride showcases the versa-
tility of his vocals, with a sinis-
ter, cynosural whisper during
the chorus. The verses are rife
with drug references; one verse
poetically compares his lyrics to
heroin: “These are my gold bars
melted on spoons / My junk hits
like martial law / You nod like
true.” “Powers That B,” the title
track, relates what appears to be
a form of enlightenment that has
come from Ride’s finding “the
powers that b” — whatever they
happened to “b.” The songs last
verse blames the “bads” (mis-
fortunes) that come from crit-
ics’ expectations of the group
and relates the “price tag” that
comes with these so-called bads.
Subtle compositional flourishes
à la Andy Morin put the cherry
atop of this Himalayan, sonic

“Beyond Alive” goes the wrong

direction with the album’s new
sound. A brow furling amalgam
of sounds, “Beyond Alive” has
vacuous System Of A Down style
guitar riffs which clash with the
track’s industrial components.
Thankfully, track seven finds sal-
vation in the last 30 seconds’ brief
electronic vignette. This break
from chaos can even be described

as beautiful — a Death Grip’s rar-
ity. Next, “Centuries Of Damn”
does what “Beyond Alive” tries to
do, but does it better. The guitar
tracks in “Centuries Of Damn”
provide a recurring melodic hook
that sends the abused listener
Blue Öyster Cult vibes and a
much-needed melodic foothold.

“On GP” is far and away the

strongest track on all of Powers
That B. Like the group does on
“Turned Off,” “On GP” makes
use of time signatures uncom-
mon to rap. “On GP” (general
principle) starts big with blar-
ing guitars, but eventually finds
itself in many different places,
all varying in energy. An inti-
mate ride cymbal and gloomy
organ pads set the stage for the
first verse, where Ride’s dark
lyrics tell of a “nosy bitch” who
notices Ride and wants to know
what’s up with him. He tells
her to “listen close,” because he
just bought an “old black rope /
Gonna learn how to tie it (and)
hang (it) in (his) chamber.” The
verse ends with the personifi-
cation of Death on Ride’s front
porch, “itching to take (him).”
Finally, Death hands Ride a
weapon and “slurs, ‘use at your
discretion, its been a pleasure,
Stefan,’” referring to Ride by his
given name. The verse is heart-
felt in a Death Grips kind of way;
it’s about as touching as Death

band’s recent decision to break
up, these self-destructive words
accrue some serious weight. The
outro references the song’s title
and continues to touch on Ride’s
self-destructive tendencies: “All
the nights I don’t die for you
/ Wouldn’t believe how many
nights I ain’t die for you on GP.”
These provocative words sug-
gest that some general principle
indoctrinated their break-up.

If Death Grips has been doing

anything well lately, its been their
incredible ability to piss people
off. Their sudden disbandment,
cancellation of future shows
and no-show gigs have made the
group pretty high on several peo-
ple’s shit lists. The final track’s
title doesn’t help their cause, as
it tempts us with a new version
something we just lost. “Death
Grips 2.0” is instrumental and
jarring — a deviation from their
usual industrial sound. Abandon-
ing all hip-hop influence, “Death
Grips 2.0” sounds like something
off Drukqs.

Jenny Death is good. Damn

good. While not likely to be their
largest commercial success, it
is innovative and conceptually
dense. Jenny Death serves as
something of a eulogy for the
band, if the band does really stay
broken up. The band will be tour-
ing this summer to promote the
release of The Powers That B.
All things considered, it is ques-
tionable as to whether or not
The Powers That B will be Death
Grips’s final album – I have
strong doubts. If it is their last
album, it’s a fine note to leave on.


Death Grips


The timeless Sinatra


Daily Arts Writer

All girls dig a classy man.
It’s no lie. Bow ties, shiny

shoes, fine wine and holding
the door are the key to any girl’s

Frank Sinatra came into our

world in 1915. Arguably Amer-
ica’s most romantic serenader,
the chap is, indeed, the picture of
“classy.” His look is a sharp one
— suede coat and tie, all below a
signature, charming grin. And
let’s not forget the finishing
touch: the hat. Guaranteed to
melt the hearts of any sweetie
in the mid 20th centrury, the
Sinatra topper defines the man:
handsome, sophisticated and
indubitably audacious.

Despite this charm, modern

pop stars reject Sinatra’s style,
gripping the gazes of today’s
teens with anything but class.
Iggy Azalea beckons viewers in
her music video “Fancy” with
a precariously thigh-exposing
mini-skirt and knee-high stock-
ings in a teasing schoolgirl
seduction. Lil Wayne sports

bright red short and full-body
tattoos in his video for “A Milli.”
“Burnin’ Up” features Jessie
J, complete with golden talons
and intentionally ripped sleeves,
chewing a man’s ear between
glossy purple lips — making
everybody mildly uncomfort-
able. So, unless skimpy garb
and chaotic hair have been
recently proclaimed as sophis-
ticated wear, these stars are
certainly evading even remote
hints of intellect. Despite this,
their fame is tremendous — fans
across the world obsess over vid-
eos, play albums on repeat and
flock to concerts. These guys are
renowned, rocking looks that
teens love. But will they last?

The song content of these

recent artists begs the same
question, as lyrics parallel the
moderately trashy vibes of pop-
star dress. Today’s R&B and pop
talk about a few core things —
parties, sex, drugs and alcohol.
Adam Levine recalls how “I get
so high when I’m inside you,” as
Miley Cyrus sings of “dancing
with Molly,” and Flo Rida belts
out his inflamed desires to take

“a freak” home. It’s what teens
want to talk about in this day
and age.

Sinatra, however, rocks a dif-

ferent vibe. He sings of true,
unadulterated romance rather
than one-night lovers. “Lovely,
don’t you ever change,” Sinatra
sings out in the top hit, “Just the
Way You Look Tonight.” “Fly
Me to the Moon” (a personal
favorite of mine — and everyone,
let’s be real) captures listeners
hearts with a smooth combina-
tion of vocals and jazzy instru-
mentals. It’s genuine passion,
distant from the constant refer-
ences to curvaceous bodies and
fickle fornication in today’s hits
— and it never gets old.

Sinatra isn’t at the top of

the charts. He’s not on the Top
40, blasting from speakers or
jammed out to by the collegiate
body. This man beckons us with
a different kind of allure, reject-
ing the hyper-sexualized, frat-
party, bass-drop heat of teenage
pop and sporting a classic,
romantic mood that’s everlast-
ing. This man is classic. Frank is
still fresh.

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