Talkback: Is The Artist's Use of the Vertigo Theme Tantamount to Artistic 'Rape?'
This just in: Kim Novak, star of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, has a beef with Oscar front-runner The Artist and its use of Bernard Herrmann's iconic love theme from the 1958 classic. Let's just cut to the chase and let Novak's words speak for themselves: “I want to report a rape... my body of work has been violated by The Artist."
Say what, Ms. Novak? Rape? Director Michel Hazanavicius might prefer the term "homage," but potato, po-tah-to... perhaps some elaboration is in order. Novak's personal missive, for which she composed a press release and took out a full-page trade ad, continues via Deadline:
"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."
“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!"
"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."
Novak has a point, to a point: Using a well-known piece from a beloved classic can, consciously or subconsciously, evoke the emotion earned by that reference film. But does that mean The Artist cheated by borrowing on the emotional associations its audience had for Vertigo? And, as personally as that citation hit Novak, is it fair to reduce the cinematic equivalent of sampling in hip-hop to such a gross violation?
And if Bing Crosby was still around, would he make the same claim for the use of "Pennies from Heaven?"
Chime in, Movieliners.