First muss me a little

The presence of water consistently cued the audience that hilarity was at hand. They chuckled at "Madeline Elster"'s drop off Fort Point, they hooted at the very un-Bay-like calm on which she so carefully floated, they jeered "She still has her shoes!" when she was carried out, and they pert near bust a gut when a wave crashed behind the first kiss of the film.

Vertigo's water is an odd substance. It touches without mussing; softens but doesn't melt; it ruins (and by extension removes) the clothing but leaves the face on.

It operates like sex in soft-core porn.

John Ferguson (and Alfred Hitchcock) desire the impossible vacancy of mainstream media sexuality; Marjory Wood and Judy Barton are punished when they can't provide it; in turn, Ferguson and Hitchcock's overly explicit desires are punished, by storyline and by the audience's laughter, respectively. That saturation-coverage fantasy of inviolability and desecration curls in embarrassment when touched too sincerely and too publicly.

As for the shoes, they simply seem to be a tight fit: only one is jolted loose by Madeline Elster's fall.

Copyright 1998 Ray Davis