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Kim Novak Protests Use of 'Vertigo' Score in 'The Artist'--Hazanavicius Explains Why He Used Herrmann Score

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 9, 2012 at 12:49PM

I have spoken to a number of people who are not thrilled with the way that Michel Hazanavicius and composer Ludovic Bource used Bernard Herrmann's signature "Vertigo" score at the climax of "The Artist." I had wondered if this reaction could lead to Bource not landing an Oscar nomination from the Academy music branch.
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Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Hitchcock's "Vertigo"
Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Hitchcock's "Vertigo"

I have spoken to a number of people who are not thrilled with the way that Michel Hazanavicius and composer Ludovic Bource used Bernard Herrmann's signature "Vertigo" score at the climax of "The Artist." I had wondered if this reaction could lead to Bource not landing an Oscar nomination from the Academy music branch.

Trying to throw a money wrench into that nomination is "Vertigo" star Kim Novak's passionate protest via press release and trade ads. To say she is upset is an understatement. Deadline spoke to her manager Sue Cameron and runs her rather strange statement (below). The Weinstein Co. has not yet responded; much is at stake for a film that currently leads the Oscar pack. (See the latest voting from the Gurus 'O Gold.)

The question is whether Academy member Novak is permitted to protest in this way, maligning a would-be Oscar contender. Oscar ballots are due Friday.

Los Angeles: “I want to report a rape,” said Kim Novak, the legendary star of “Vertigo,” “Picnic,” and many other revered classics. “My body of work has been violated by ‘The Artist.’ This film took the Love Theme music from “Vertigo” and used the emotions it engenders as its own. Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart can’t speak for themselves, but I can. It was our work that unconsciously or consciously evoked the memories and feelings to the audience that were used for the climax of ‘The Artist.’”

    Novak went on to say that “The Artist” could and should have been able to stand on its own. “There was no reason for them to depend on Bernard Herrmann’s score from ‘Vertigo’ to provide more drama. ‘Vertigo’s’ music was written during the filming. Hitchcock wanted the theme woven musically in the puzzle pieces of the storyline. Even though they did given Bernard Herrmann a small credit at the end, I believe this kind of filmmaking trick to be cheating. Shame on them!”

    This kind of “borrowing” could portend a dangerous future for all artists in film. “It is morally wrong of people in our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what the original work was intended. It is essential that all artists safeguard our special bodies of work for posterity, with their individual identities intact and protected.
 

On the other hand, composers quote classical composers all the time, as Lars von Trier does Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" in "Melancholia." Why does this particular quotation bother people so? The movie makes many homages and references to old movies, including this one.  During my Q & A with Hazanavicius he explained why he chose this passage in the score:

AT:  The choice of music does a lot for the film,  especially at the end.

MH: I worked with the composer, Ludovic Bource—I've worked with him now for 15 years, so we are very close.  But this one was particularly difficult to do because he had to respect the spirit of all the great Hollywood classical composers.  But also he had to respect the structure of the script and the story.  And that was very difficult because he really had to follow the story.  I am in charge of the storytelling, so he had to accept that I made the decision of what the music had to be.  So it was very difficult for him.  And he did a really great job.  

AT: But you end up with "Vertigo," Bernard Hermann?

MH: Yeah, Vertigo.  Bernard, in my mind, was a genius.  He was a wonderful composer, and actually there's some tribute to Bernard Hermann in the movie in terms of the score, to "Citizen Kane." If you know the score, you recognize some parts.  It's like a musical citation.

AT: When he goes into into the room and discovers all his stuff?

MH: No, this is more Franz Waxman in "Sunset Boulevard." When he goes out of the theater after seeing the movie, there's a number in the score that is like the opening of "Citizen Kane," the aria.  But "Vertigo" is very beautiful.  And I wanted something specific for the moment at the end, something very beautiful.  And when I put the" Vertigo" love theme, it was completely perfect. So the composer tried to make something close to that, but finally I decided to keep it because it was much better.

Check out The Passionate Moviegoer's take on the issue.

This article is related to: Sound and Score, Awards, Awards, Oscars, Classics, Weinsteins


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