The Movie Critique

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Date: 12 November 2001
Summary: pure quality

Hitchcock's best film ??? I think yes... "Vertigo" is the best thriller I've ever seen, it has great performances, an amazing plot, and what can I say about the direction of the film? it's masterful. I watched this movie after watching a music video called "Last Cup Of Sorrow" form the band Faith No More, and after I knew that the plot was a rip-off of this movie, I watched it and now it's one of my favorite movies of all time.

All I can say is that if you haven't seen "Vertigo" what are you waiting for??? Go now and rent it, no no, buy it! it's a great film in all aspects.


Steven Bishop (

Date: 9 November 2001
Summary: old school dropout

When I first tried to watch this film and turned it off after half an hour due to a mixture of boredom and frustration at the terrible directing. But after hearing more and more about what a great director Hitchcock is, and how Vertigo is his best, I figured I must have made a mistake. I hadn't. SPOILERS ALERT I don't know if it's nostalgia that makes people give films like this good reviews, but I review them by today's standards, and this film falls flat on it's face. Let me start with the directing, it's like Hitchcock has no idea of how to capture motion. The film was like watching a slideshow of picture after picture, filled with terrible old school dialogue and, at times, some equally terrible acting. It felt totally synthetic and the set method of film making just doesn't work. I wasn't at all convinced with the character's, and the way Scottie falls in love with Madeline is proposterous. The terrible exposition towards the end of the film, where she starts writing the letter to Scottie, is appalling and totally unnecessary. The end would have been so much better if the viewer was left to figure it all out as Scottie pushes Judy to become more and more like Madeline. And the mere idea that the necklace would be the only thing that makes Scottie realise Judy was Madeline is laughable The fact that she looked totally the same after getting into the grey suit had nothing to do with it. And the ending! Oh my God, what the hell was that all about. I know nuns can be scary but suicide is going a little to far. And finally the score. A little over done, and not particularly effective. It felt like Hitchcock had to fill all his scenes with music because they were too boring on there own. On the plus side, the plot was pretty good, if poorly told, and I was sucked into the story's possession scam just like Scottie. Apart from that, not much else. And considering a film like Dr Strangelove was made only two years after this, age is no excuse. I shall not be seeking out any more Hitchcock films for the foreseeable future.


Sydney, Australia

Date: 6 November 2001
Summary: Wonderful, but plot problems.


Vertigo (1958) was made during Hitchcock's golden 1950s period of classics - just after Rear Window (1954), To Catch A Thief (1955), The Trouble With Harry (1955) and The Wrong Man (1957), and just before North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960). This was a time of bewildering creative achievement for the director. Vertigo may be the most personal movie he ever made.

Before I commend this wonderful movie, I want to mention that repeat viewings over the years have highlighted its many plot problems. As an example, I will summarise one of the most implausible narrative threads:

As part of the elaborate plot to kill Madeleine Elster, her husband Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) and his accessory Judy Barton (Kim Novak) need to somehow persuade detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) to drive Judy, who he believes is Madeleine, to the Spanish mission San Juan Batista. There, Elster and Judy will murder the real Madeleine and perform a hoax to convince Scottie a suicide has occurred. They contrive this situation in the most unlikely, implausible manner. Judy recounts a disturbing dream to Scottie in which she vaguely describes San Juan Batista but doesn't name it. Elster relies on 3 things to occur for the plan to work:

1) Scottie has been to San Juan Batista (how would Elster know that?).

2) Scottie will recognise San Juan Batista from Judy's vague description.

3) Scottie will take the initiative to take Judy there, but not right away, so that Elster will have enough time to organise to take the real Madeleine there first!

Surely Elster (and Hitchcock!) could have conceived of a better way to kill his wife.

I won't go into the numerous other plot difficulties. Despite those screenplay problems, Samuel Taylor's characters are well-written. Hitchcock was never one to film plausible stories. An all-time classic in this regard must be Young and Innocent (1937), which has a man gallivanting all over the English country-side looking for a stolen raincoat to prove his innocence.

Vertigo is a great film not because of its plot but because of its aesthetic qualities and the overall mood of Romantic Tragedy. The pace is slow and intriguing, as Scottie follows the fake Madeleine around picturesque San Francisco. Scottie's attempts to remold the earthy and cheap-looking Judy into the elegant ice maiden Madeleine comes across as a kind of sad, self-revelation from Hitchcock.

I always thought that Grace Kelly would have been superb in the role of Madeleine/Judy, although she had quit acting two years previously after The Swan (1956) and High Society (1956) to become a princess. As his favourite actress, I'm sure she was Hitch's model for the elegant blonde ice maiden (although his association with the similar-looking Madeleine Carroll in 1930s may have also been influential). Grace Kelly may have been less convincing in Judy mode, although the Country Girl (1954) suggests that she could have effectively played a down-and-out character. Kim Novak gives a sometimes mannered, but overall exceptional performance, although I personally don't think she has the necessary elegant beauty to be the object of such infatuation. Her makeup in both guises is not exactly understated.

It is one of the most beautifully shot films of all time, in the high-quality VistaVision process by regular collaborator Robert Burks. Hitchcock's use of colour was never so effective, this time with an emphasis on reds and greens. It is a glorious moment when the made over Judy emerges from the bathroom and is bathed in the green light of a neon sign. Unfortunately, Scottie's nightmare sequence is quite dated and detracts from the elegance of the rest of the movie.

Bernard Herrmann's score is amongst the best ever written in the history of cinema, unquestionably. There are many other contributors who should be singled out: Saul Bass (titles), Henry Bumstead (art direction) and Edith Head (costumes).

We owe a great deal to the massive restoration efforts of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz (who also saved Rear Window (1954) and other important movies). They have rescued the negative from massive deterioration, and it looks and sounds magnificent in a 70mm Super VistaVision print. The Universal DVD is also well produced, with an interesting commentary track from the restoration team and associate producer Herbert Coleman.


Bolingbrook, Illinois

Date: 6 November 2001
Summary: The best ever? The best Hitch ever?

A lot of people seem to think so. I see people, here, calling this the best movie ever; or, if not that, at the very least, the best movie Hitchcock ever made. To call "Vertigo" the best movie ever is, of course, quite laughable. And as far as it being Hitchcock's best, I judge it to be only about his 4th or 5th best (my personal favorite is "North by Northwest," truly one of the best movies ever). Based on these comments, one might assume that I don't much like it. Right? Au contraire! I think it is a very good movie, one not far removed from excellent. But it does have flaws, minor though they be.

First and foremost, "Vertigo" is a FABULOUS travelogue for late-1950s San Francisco and environs (including Muir Woods in Marin County and Mission San Juan Bautista, 100 miles south of San Francisco). At the time of the filming, I was a high school sophomore in San Francisco. I well remember the film company coming to town to shoot the movie, though I never saw any scenes actually being shot. What I do know is that the movie is most evocative of the San Francisco of that era.

The plot? It's good, I've seen better. Its weakest link is when Scottie (James Stewart) "loses" Madeleine (Kim Novak), or so he thinks, then accidentally "finds" Judy (Madeleine's alter ego -- also Kim) on the streetsof downtown San Francisco. I realize that movies often have to have coincidences in order to make their plots work. That said, "Vertigo" has to take a grading markdown for this ridiculously coincidental Madeleine-cum-Judy plot device in order to make this story work. Having lived so many years in San Francisco, I know how difficult it would be -- make that impossible! -- to find one specific person on a downtown street, ESPECIALLY when you're not even looking for that person in the first place. That's how difficult and coincidental it would have been for Scottie to actually "find" Judy. I also didn't care for the way the character Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) was handled. Was she or was she not Scottie's "love interest" before Madeleine entered the picture? She starts out as a major character, then gradually fades away and by the end of the picture, she has disappeared completely, as if she were never even in the movie. True, Scottie becomes more and more obsessed with Madeleine/Judy, but let's at least let Midge hang in to the bitter end as the crushed girlfriend -- or something!

Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. The former is my favorite actor -- EVER!!! -- so you know I have nothing bad to say about his performance in this movie. It was just your typically fine performance by "The Man." As for Kim Novak, I see many people, once again here, commending her great performance in this film. Sheesh! Gag me with a spoon, Charlie Brown! Her performance in this movie is barely adequate, at best. Barely. It's no wonder Sir Alfred of the Hitch actually wanted Vera Miles for the role and when he couldn't get her (she was pregnant at the time), had to "settle for" Kim. Talk about a one-note samba performance! Kim is a classic example of a gorgeous woman with no true acting talent who came to Hollywood and was able to break into movies strictly on the basis of her beauty. Unlike some actresses in her category (Julia Roberts is one who comes to mind), Kim never developed one iota as an actress and that is why she had such a nothing career in the movies. Her one talent was to stand there and look pretty -- hopefully with her mouth shut! And she is the major dead weight that prevented "Vertigo" from being all that Hitch hoped and wanted it to be.

Last, I cannot ignore Bernard Herrmann's score for this movie. When it comes to scoring a movie, this is as good as it gets. I don't know all of his scores without looking them up but I seriously doubt that he ever did a better score -- for any movie! -- than the one he did for "Vertigo."

The best ever? The best Hitch ever? For those people who think this movie is -- one or the other -- I commend those people for knowing what they like. I, of course, cannot agree -- to either one. But ..... if only Vera Miles had been available.


Lee Bartholomew (
Cedar Falls, IA

Date: 3 November 2001
Summary: Haunting of course. It'll stay with you for a few days.

Not to be watched late at night. But it was a fun movie. James Stewart was at his best within this movie. Some of the plot perhaps was confusing in the middle, but it does pick up towards the ending where you quickly realize Alfred did it to you again.


Quality: 9/10 Entertainment: 10/10 Replayable: 9/10


Shoreline, Washington

Date: 28 October 2001
Summary: Classic Hitchcock thriller with excellent performances...

1st watched 10/28/2001 - 9 out of 10(Dir-Alfred Hitchcock): *Spoilers*

Classic Hitchcock thriller with excellent performances by Jimmie Stewart and Kim Novak. This movie is a unique experience to watch because as a viewer you are in Stewart's shoes until the reality of the situation is revealed to you by Hitchcock and of course Stewart is the kind of star that we're always routing for(so we're hoping for the best till the very end). Guess what? We don't exactly get what we're hoping for, and that's what makes this is a special film in my eyes. It goes against the grain by putting likeable characters who actually don't come out on the good side. This makes for a horrible viewing experience in some people's eyes, but to me it throws a twist into what should be expected from these viewing experiences(Now when I see Jimmie Stewart, I don't always expect him to get the girl -- in a way). The movie is technically well done as well with even some animation thrown in for a dream sequence. All in all I believe this is one of the (if not the best) Hitchcock movie which has influenced many future movies by other directors and will probably continue to influence more. Bravo!!


Nottingham, England

Date: 10 October 2001
Summary: A true Classic

This is a very tense and dramatic Thriller. The acting in this is brilliant. The plot is very well written and the twist are very shocking and take you by suprise. This could have easily lost its tension near the end, but this manages to be tension right up to the last minute. A Brilliant film, that no-one should miss. A classic.



Date: 8 October 2001
Summary: The movie that keeps on giving

-spoiler warning-

There are many films that reward multiple viewings, but I've never seen one that rewards you as much as 'Vertigo' does. I've seen this movie about ten times, and I just watched it again a few days ago, looking for details I might have missed. At the beginning of the film I noticed that Midge was explaining to Scottie that he couldn't easily lose his acrophobia - that only another "emotional shock" would do the trick. And sure enough, that emotional shock would come when the real Judy falls off the belltower at the end of the movie, revealing a cured Scottie looking down in disbelief. There is so much substance in this film that I couldn't possibly go into any specific aspect in detail. All I can say is that if you've only seen it once, do yourself a favor and watch it again - you'll be pleasantly surprised.



Date: 7 October 2001
Summary: By far the best Hitchcock film and one of the biggest film experience I`ve ever hade!!!

First I must say that the cinematography and the colors in this film are simply masterful.Its by far Hitchcocks best film and also One of Hitchcock's most discussed films.The acting is fantastic by James Stewart and the rest of the cast.Vertigo also feels like Hitchcocks most grown-up film because its not a bit funny and its almost impossible to figure out how it going to end so I was really surprised at the end.Vertigo is really a masterpiece and its one of the best film experience I have ever had.5/5


Vancouver, BC, Canada

Date: 6 October 2001
Summary: An Incredible Movie

This movie is an incredible work of art by the master of suspense. There are so many things great about it. Directing, acting, camera work, musical score, and just about everything else is wonderful.

James Stewart and Kim Novak give truly remarkable performances in one of the best movies I've seen in a while. The acting is good from all of the actors. Even the nun in the final scene of the movie is memorable.

I was drawn in with the opening scene. I rated this movie 9 out of 10.


Harare, Zimbabwe

Date: 22 September 2001
Summary: Best Hitchcock ever

This movie kept me guessing all the way until the fantastic ending. Its so good, truly a masterpiece. The music is hauntingly beautiful, the acting is great, fantastic photography, everything masterful directed. To say something about the plot would spoil it. If you havnt seen it, see it now!



Date: 16 September 2001
Summary: If oil-paintings came in video format...

... this is what you'd get. I can't watch it enough. It's beautiful. Nobody ever used a camera like Hitch. Makes you realize how cheap modern films are. They do so much less with so much more (with exception to acting talent).

Every time I watch, I see something new. This should be required in school, like the Constitution tests.


Vitoria (spain)

Date: 12 September 2001
Summary: best film ever

Contains Spoilers This movie im talking about, is for me and many more people the best film ever done. Why? there are thousands of reasons: Starting from the opening titles, Saul Bass put us directly in the spiral of love and death that is Vertigo, also with the red eye. The screenplay is perfect, each image, look, note from the great Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack, color, or any ditail in the screen, is correlated with all the story and gives it a tremendous dimension. There is a fact that, assuming that is a classic movie, reveals that its breaking with the way to tell stories of the classic cinema. When the film seems to be over with the fall of Madelaine from the tower, Hitchcock goes further and another film bagins. The point of view changes from Scotty to Judy, and we now that Judy is Madelaine but not Scotty. But all on this final part is related to all in the first, creating an eternal spiral.

Wonderful, perfect, is really a very surrealistic picture. Although is a detective story, exceeds it by all sides from the start.

With this film you can watch it ten times and continue discovering ditails. Is inexhaustible. The photography is sublime, many times blurred as it were a dream. Definitely any factor in the film is right: The music, the photography, the credits, the actors, the story, the planification, the effect of vertigo, the flachback, the nightmare, that moment on the forest. . . and of course the one and only Hitchcock.


Jared (Dble07jamesbond)
Milford, MA

Date: 3 September 2001
Summary: Superb

Vertigo is the ultimate film. It is my favorite film and in my opinion should have been rated much higher in the AFI's top 100 movies of all time list. It outdoes Psycho and North By Northwest even though those are superb films as well. I realize that Psycho set standars for years to come, and North By Norhtwest set standards for script-wrting, directorial techniques, etc....but Vertigo was simply a masterpeice made. Nothing was revolutionized (except Hitch's technique of falling bodies), but instead a wonderful movie was made that can show just how much the human mind can toy with feelings and emotions. Not only is the cinematography and acting remarkable in this film, but the heart-breaking score by the great Bernard Herrmann would also have to be the high point in this film. When you listen to the score, you feel all the emotions that are running through the film and through the charachters head. Never before could this have been expressed in a film, and it has never been done again in film. There have been many attempts and superb films as well that have tried to express the same emotions--but none have succeeded more then Vertigo. This was Alfred Hitchcocks personal favorite of his own--and I do not blame him. All elements come together: James Stewart and Kim Novak's electrifying performances, Bernard Herrmann's legendary score, the superb scenery of San Francisco, and the love and passion expressed through the chracters by a remarkable script. The thing to top off Vertigo is the scene where Judy comes out of the bathroom and reveals herself as this illusion woman (Madeline). There is so much passion in this scene it truly has to be one of the most remarkable scenes in the history of film. When one takes all these elements into hand, Vetigo can without a doubt be considered one of the 3, if not the greatest, movie of all time.



Date: 26 August 2001
Summary: The Best Movie Ever!!!!

This is the best movie I have ever seen. As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock films, I have seen many, this is by far the best one. A mystery, a love story, a murder, and Oh SO Many Plot Twists. If you like suspense and thrillers this is a good one.


Alice Liddel (
dublin, ireland

Date: 15 August 2001
Summary: Unfathomable.(spoilers)

It has become one of the cliches in talking about 'Vertigo' that it is Hitchcock's most personal work, a naked confession of his desires for blonde actresses in general, for Vera Miles (who was originally intended to play Madeleine/Judy) in particular. In this model, Scottie Ferguson who makes over Judy Barton in the image of another woman and destroys her in process, is Hitchcock making over Kim Novak in the image of a pregnant Vera Miles.

This is all well and good, if a little facile, but isn't the true Hitchcock altar-ego in 'Vertigo', a man whose place of business is introduced by Hitchcock's cameo, Gavin Elster? The seemingly stolid, amiable craftsman creating mad, mind-bending murder plots, and then disappearing for ever, just as Hitchcock creates in 'Vertigo' a truly Borgesian labyrinth without a centre, lets generations of critics loose in it, and vanishes with the map? The plot of 'Vertigo' is pure illusion, a phantom narrative starring a possessing ghost, formerly an actress; in trying to recreate a phantom, to become Gavin Elster, to possess a possessed woman (in both senses - by Carlotta Valdes; by Elster), Scottie merely duplicates and proliferates more and more phantoms until he wanders around in a world that doesn't exist.

There is a school of thought that presuasively argues that 'Vertigo' is a Surrealist film - one critic even suggests that Scottie dies at the beginning (and how on earth was he rescued from a rotting gutter; by the criminal?), and that the rest of the film is a dream. this is convincing because the film follows a dream logic, in its repetition, overlaying and transformation of scenes, characters, motifs, colours etc. When Scottie has the famous nightmare after Madeleine's death, the nocturnal view of Scottie, with 'SP' blazing in neon that began the film, with Scottie and the policeman pursuing a miscreant, is repeated here. Why?

One thing is for certain, this nightmare sequence is the key moment in 'Vertigo'. There is a pattern in the film where characters take on the characteristics of other characters, like ghosts, most obviously in the case of Judy and Madeleine. In the film's second half, Scottie begins with his mind blasted, emptied of his own personality. He begins it leaving a mental institution. He is ready to become someone else. He wants, both unwittingly and, after the discovery of the necklace, consciously, to become Elster, the creator of the film, the potent God who created a world and convinced his actors it was the real one. The man who got away.

Scottie fails to become Elster because he becomes Madeleine, another of Elster's creations. Madeleine tells Scottie the imprecise details of a recurring dream she has - Scottie in his nightmare enacts her dream and her fate. The end of the film will see him trying to extricate himself from his role and his Creator, but he will only repeat it, once again causing an 'innocent' woman to die for his own masculine vanity.

The film is full of blatant visual imagery expressing male and female principles, but it is Scottie who is feminised, who ends the film paralysed in a vaginal arch, just as earlier he stood in his doorway and Elster's actress stood with (the sardonically named) Coit Tower behind her. These arches are not just the female principles Scottie gets lost in, they are the proscenium arches of master playwright Elster, whose signature is found throughout the film, right from their first meeting, he relating his plot on a stage, Scottie the audience listening.

'Vertigo' was recently shown at the Irish Film Centre on 70mm. Some clown fouled up the sound. Normally this would be a vandalism punishable only by torture, but this time it gave me a chance to do something I'd always wanted to do, but was always prevented by Hitchcock's narrative intractibility - follow the story through the paintings. There are so many paintings in every room in 'Vertigo' (and in Scottie's is one of those scientific patterns of the opening credits, linking him again to the female object).

In Midge's study, the images of the female are fetishistically Surreal, fragments of the female body and their clothes (just as Scottie is decapitated/castrated in his nightmare) - in one painting above her sofa, where Scottie lies, surrounded by pictures of women, is an abstract study of fragments as if an explosion has just taken place. In Elster's room, ships naturally predominate, especially a storm scene where light on the left where Scottie stands meets the dark turbulence on Elster's, the side Scottie will cross into. The sound, I'm afraid, came back, and I once again got lost in the labyrinth, but I'm determined to do this properly some day. I did like the child with the code in the gallery behind Scottie (Carlotta's child? The child none of the characters have?), and the forest scene in the mental hospital, reminding us of the sequoias.

Still the greatest.



Date: 12 August 2001
Summary: Among the very best.

In Boileau-Narcejac's French novel,the revelation only comes in the last pages,but Hitchcock let the cat out of the bag,long before the end. Boileau-Narcejac's novel is a pure detective story,but the Master wanted more.After a first part visually wonderful,with memorable scenes,wrapped in mystery ,such as the one with the sequoia,symbol of immortality,or the one down by the sea,to rival with the best romantic movies of all time.In the second part,Hitchcock explains in the Truffaut book,we know but Scottie( James Stewart) does not .And he tries to recreate a dead woman,to transform Judy into Madeleine.This folie deux will end where the first tragedy occured ,which gives the movie a strength that the book had not.Read it and you'll see how its end ,speaking in terms of cinema,had to be modified for the screen.That's Hitchcock's genius.



Date: 2 August 2001
Summary: Classic Hitchcock and Stewart

An interesting psychological piece that richly displays Hitchcock's talents. It is unfair to compare this film to the suspense thrillers of today which are subjected to more realism in sex and violence. Hitchcock had to be more subtle in 1958, where I'm sure a work like this, that seems tame by today's standards, appeared bizarre and risqu. Also the acting here seems histrionic; not that people actually spoke like that in the 50s but the audiences liked such dictionally refined dialogue back then as opposed to the lines of modern-day scripts that more accurately portray the way individuals speak.

James Stewart and Kim Novak are appealing on numerous levels, the former mainly because he doesn't wander far from the amiable joe we have come to expect (even though he does weird-out near the conclusion) and the latter because she maintains a veneer of vulnerability that we can relate to.

This is not a film I especially like (I couldn't watch it again and again) but I respect for its strong filmmaking.


Amsterdam, Netherlands

Date: 1 August 2001
Summary: probably never want to see it again, here's why...

My favourite Hitchcock films are (not having seen Psycho yet): Notorious, Rebecca, Rope and North by northwest. Notice the absence of Vertigo and Rear window? (Two are even from his Selznick-dominated era). Indeed, Vertigo is not one of my favourites. Hitchcock isn't one of my favourites at all. Everybody wants to be Hitchcock's biggest fan, but I am not everybody. Some IMDb-users want nicknames like Hitch or even Hitchy as if they were close friends. Hmm. Wouldn't it be easy to conform to the majority and try to find ANYTHING appealing in Vertigo? It may be technically and aesthetically flawless, but there is nothing really special in this personal piece. Absolutely NO rough edges.

Hitchcock makes a gesture at the narrow-minded audiences all over the world again as always. That's why we can say: 'I'm going to see a Hitchcock!', and everybody knows what we mean. That makes me a bit itchy. It also explains why Hitchcock's films are so over-rated: they are appreciated very well ON AVERAGE. Nobody really wants to admit that they didn't like a Hitch they just saw (try to imagine these statements with Bunuel's films in mind...). Well, e.g. 'the Birds' (1963) rates 4 in my list.

The 'vertigo-effect' of zooming out and riding the camera forward isn't new at all (saw that in a '30s movie once). However it was used extremely appropriately here. The best element of Vertigo is the visualization of the psychology (obsession) in the story. But if you want to see really interesting films about obsession see 'Obsession' (1949, Dmytryk, written by Alec Coppel ! - a must see with music by Nino Rota (Godfather, Amarcord)). And 'Ossessione' (1946, Visconti), 'Les Enfants Terribles' (1950, Melville) or even 'Abre los ojos' (1997, Amenabar, with very clear vertigo-references). Great films with rough edges about psychological problems are Suture (McGehee&Siegel, 1993), Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966) and Fight Club (Fincher, 1999).

Where would cinema be if Hitchcock had never directed ONE film? In my opinion exactly where it is now. No hard feelings though. I enjoy a Hitch too every once in a while. But after three attempts I don't think I want to see the sluggish Vertigo ever again.

Still rates 7/10 :-)



Date: 28 July 2001

This is one of the best films ever made. The more you analyze the story, the more profound the film gets. Hitchcock's study of sexual obsession is one reason filmaking is called the 7th art. Great performances, moody Art-Direction, dream-like cinematography (by the great Robert Burks) and beautiful, unforgettable score by Bernard Herrmann. Repleted with Hitch's incredible set-pieces. Deliberately paced but never boring, it has the stamp of a genius at work. A great motion picture that you do not want to miss!