Guy Maddin makes weird films. This isn’t a complaint, it’s a compliment of the highest order. In a world where studios are making only the safest of choices on a daily basis weird, experimental film is always some of the most important film around. The Green Fog is no exception: it re-imagines Hitchcock’s Vertigo using clips from other films (new and old) and television from the 70s and 80s –all also shot in San Francisco–, and only one single shot from the film itself.
It’s something else and the fact that Kronos Quartet were there to play the original score live made it truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I will say this, if you haven’t seen Vertigo this movie will be a hot mess. All the story beats from the original are there, but the breadth of clips used to illuminate them are only thematically linked and effectively all the dialogue is removed. That’s not to say there aren’t characters interacting, it’s just that the film cuts all the actual dialogue from each conversation scene meaning you get rapid fire reaction shots. It’s kinda funny, but it’s also kind of amazing how much of the tone of the movie you still get.
The clips that make up the plot are sourced from all over the place but they are always on point. For example, the early rooftop chase in the story is told using clips from at least half a dozen sources but you can definitely still follow the continuity of the sequence. There’s a 4 minute section in the middle where the main character is represented by Chuck Norris that is a kind of beautiful short story about melancholy all by itself that is probably my favourite part of the film. Turns out when you remove all the dialogue from a 70s Chuck Norris film he becomes a great stoic actor.
I’m not 100% sure that the thing will make sense if you haven’t seen Vertigo, but even if you haven’t each of the individual sequences are thoughtful and interesting.
The real highlight of the screening was the score though. Jason Garchik wrote a phenomenal original score for this project and Kronos Quartet played it live for us. To say that they are a legendary group would be an understatement and they really live up to the hype. At times the film was hard to focus on because they quartet themselves were so compelling.
I can’t tell you whether you will like The Green Fog or not. It’s a little too niche, and maybe a little too weird, for most. If you’re a film fan though it’s a must see. If you love Hitchcock it’s a must see. If you love San Francisco it’s probably a must see. And even if you see it and don’t like it, you’ll probably be better for having seen it.