Sunday, June 12, 2011

Terrible, terrible

"No foundation, all the way down the line." What is that from? I'm too depressed to look it up, but I'd guess Saroyan, whom I haven't read since high school. We're all brought up to believe in certain things, and gradually they disappoint us, disillusion us, or otherwise let us down. I don't expect much from the government, the medical industry, academia or the New York Mets, but I always thought I could rely on The New Yorker, whose fact checkers are -- or were -- the stuff of legend.

So I'm leafing through the June 6, 2011, issue, and under "Now Playing" there's a one-paragraph description of Vertigo, running for a week at Brooklyn Academy of Music. I don't require that everyone agree that this is Hitchcock's masterpiece. I only ask that it be summarized accurately. And I read: "...about an acrophobic detective (James Stewart) whose care at the hands of a clothing designer (Barbara Bel Geddes)" Hold it right there, Mr. Richard Brody. Midge is not a clothing designer. She is an artist who supports herself by drawing newspaper ads. She makes it clear that the bra she is drawing was designed by an engineer, lending a nice comic tone to the scene. "Sort of a hobby," remarks Scottie, who is at loose ends since his enforced retirement. But that's nothing compared to this: "[Hitchcock's] happy ending, of health restored and crime punished, resembles an aridly monastic renunciation."

What the hell?

I have read of such an ending, of Midge and Scottie listening to the radio as news comes of Gavin Elster's arrest in Europe, filmed and wisely scrapped by Hitchcock in favor of the most heart-stopping ending of any of his films, much more haunting than Psycho, which opened the door to a line of cheesy sequels after Hitch was dead. Surely this other ending, this unholy thing, does not survive even on a bells-and-whistles deluxe DVD ("featuring the first interview with Bernard Herrmann's piano tuner!")? Mr. Brody, I am shocked and saddened. Shocked and saddened. You, too, David Remnick.

Yeah, yeah, spoiler alert. Go watch Vertigo, and put not your trust in movie critics.



Blogger john_burke100 said...

I just came by from Self-Styled Siren where I've been having fun in the SJP comments thread. I'm enjoying your blog and I entirely agree about the New Yorker coasting on a reputation for accuracy that it no longer deserves. Language Hat (another fine blog) has some comments on this, including one from me about a truly silly error in a long piece by the revered John MacPhee. (Not revered by me, you understand.) I had missed the "Vertigo" sottise, but it doesn't surprise me. I still read the magazine, for Alex Ross and Anthony Lane and Jane Mayer and some of the other regulars, but the fact-checking department is gone.

9:44 PM  

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