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Hitchcock's Organs Without Bodies

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Articles by Slavoj Žižek

One of the most instructive things to do about Hitchcock's masterpieces is to play the game of mental experiments. What if things were to take a different path (as they almost did)? Say, what if Bernard Hermann were to write for Psycho the planned score in free jazz style with heavy saxophone sound? Vertigo has three such "what-if": what if Vera Miles hadn't gotten pregnant and had been able to play Madeleine-Judy — would it still be the same movie? What if — and this option cannot but strike us as ridiculous — Hitchcock had bowed to Paramount studio's pressure and accepted for the credit sequence the song Vertigo, already written by the standard couple Livingstone-Evans? And, what if the film had been released with the extended ending, the additional short scene in Midge's apartment, with Scottie and Midge listening to the radio which announces that Elster was arrested abroad for the murder of his wife?

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Ieva Mediodia painting

We all know the uncanny moments in our everyday lives when we catch sight of our own image and this image is not looking back at us. I remember once trying to inspect a strange growth on the side of my head using a double mirror, when, all of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of my face from the profile. The image replicated all my gestures, but in a weird uncoordinated way. In such a situation, "our specular image is torn away from us and, crucially, our look is no longer looking at ourselves."3 It is in such weird experiences that one catches what Lacan called gaze as objet petit a, the part of our image which eludes the mirror-like symmetrical relationship. When we see ourselves "from outside," from this impossible point, the traumatic feature is not that I am objectivized, reduced to an external object for the gaze, but, rather, that IT IS MY GAZE ITSELF WHICH IS OBJECTIVIZED, which observes me from the outside, which, precisely, means that my gaze is no longer mine, that it is stolen from me. [...]


3. And, is this presumption not confirmed by what we see a couple of minutes later? When, after the phone call, Scottie returns to the drawing room and notices that Madeleine disappeared, he casts a quick glance at the kitchen sink and sees that the laundry previously hanging there also disappeared — why would Madeleine have taken it with her if it was not her underwear?

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