Sunday, March 21, 2010
Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart and Grace Kelly
All right, so I'm a little bit behind in my schedule. We watched Rear Window the week before last. But lend me some blog-reader credulity here, please. :)
I've already seen this film in several different classes throughout my college career: Images of Women in Film, Confinement in Cinema, and now Film Adaptations. What's all the fuss, you ask?
On the surface, one might be satisfied to know that I had the same teacher for each class. (Maybe he just *really* likes this one?) But, honestly, this film warrants multiple viewings because it's rich. And it's subtle. And it's classic Hitchcock.
On the first viewing, you could just follow the plot. For the second watch? Let's consider the appeal of voyeurism. For your third look-see? Watch Grace Kelly. Fourth time? Listen to the diagetic soundtrack.
And so on, and so on....
I can see why the short story ("It Had to be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich) appealed to director Alfred Hitchcock. A homebound man spying on his neighbors convinces himself that a murder has been committed. The story closely examines the relationship between our sight and our logic, how we process information and come to conclusions: sometimes instantaneously, sometimes with what Woolrich belabors as "delayed action." The story also considers the appeal of visual entertainment. The story's main character (who often articulates his disdain for reading) instead prefers to view the world through a small window frame. (Hmm, kinda like watching a movie on a TV screen, eh?)
Unfortunately, the short story is only so-so. It's very repetitive (yes, Woolrich, we get it....DELAYED ACTION.....), and the story never really engages you any further than its intriguing premise. But the good news is that the stage was perfectly set for Hitchcock to swoop in and put his unique mark on this one.
Mainly because the story goes out of its way to divulge little about the main character. All we really know is that the books in his apartment belonged to previous owners, and the reason for his passivity isn't revealed till the last page. All this means "he" can be whoever the filmmakers want him to be. In this case, he is incarnated as L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart), an adventurous photographer with a broken leg who's scared of commitment and going stir-crazy in his apartment. By adding several women characters, the film elaborates on Jeff's simultaneous fear of and attraction to the opposite sex.
Sound familiar? Yeah, it's what Hitchcock does best. You may not always agree with his "women-as-chaos" mantra, but you have to admit that he effectively portrays his neuroses nonetheless.
If you think Psycho is the best Hitchcock has to offer, watch this film.
If you like pondering meta-cinema...or dominance and gender....or nonconventional diagetic soundtracks....or..... oh, fuggetahbowdit ..... just watch this film.
If you like your home nurses sassy; your women beautiful and capable; and your men sweaty and incapacitated, watch this film.