Jul 19, 2013

[Movies] Rear Window (1954)

After Rope and Psycho, my continuing adventures in Alfred Hitchcock movies has led me to Rear Window, a movie that was recently remade as Disturbia starring Shia LeBeuof. It feels weird to even consider this fact to be true.

What I find to be most interesting about the movies that I've seen thus far is how different each one is versus another. A lot of current movie directors seem to be stuck making certain types of movies or forever rehashing elements over and over again. But for Alfred Hitchcock, each movie feels like a unique creative exploration - a journey that he decided to take. And we're all just lucky to be there along for the ride.

And this was a different kind of storytelling adventure all together. And while it's still a movie with suspense of its primary tone, it still feels quite distinct from the other movies that I've seen. And that's a gift in itself for any a director - and a reward that any movie-goer gets to experience.

And these movies don't really feel all that dated despite the fact that it has been over 50 years since the movie was first released. And I've seen James Stewart in many different classic movies and he still feels different from how he was portrayed here.

Synopsis: Rear Window is a 1954 suspense movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay was written by John Michael Hayes as based on Cornell Woolrich's short story "It Had To Be Murder". The movie received 4 Academy Award nominations and has been added to the National Film Registry as of 1997.

Our protagonist is Jeff Jefferies (James Stewart), who has been confined to his apartment after breaking his leg during one of his photography assignments. But he's not without amusement since the rear window of his apartment faces a little courtyard and other apartment buildings in the area. And with the summer heat, everyone has their windows open and thus making it all the easier for him to dabble in some people-watching while he recovers. He has been watching them long enough to piece together part of their life stories.

One scene of interest involves a jewelry salesman (as evidenced by the case that he totes around) and his bedridden wife. I appear that her situation has her repeatedly nagging her husband until one night she seems to have disappeared from their apartment entirely. This piques Jeff's interest as he sees the man's behavior change including more frequent trips toting about his case and an incident when has moving men take away a rather large packing crate. Thus be begins to speculate that something bad has happened to the wife - a theory that he explores either with his caretaker Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly).

The movie operates on multiple levels. Naturally the core plot involves the central mystery of whether or not the salesman killed his wife. And all that Jeff has to work with is what he can openly observe from his window. Later one the girls try to help further his remote investigation of sorts in their own way, but for the most part the action takes place from across the courtyard.

But beyond that, there are the individual stories of the other apartment dwellers as well that contribute to the overall movie. Each "window" features a different character with a different story. Some argue that the different stories are somehow projections of the protagonist's own life. Others say that the are metaphors for something completely differently. Needless to say, one cannot just ignore all the other windows out of hand - there's a reason for everything that Alfred Hitchcock does after all. I feel obligated to re-watch this movie in order to better understanding the surrounding stories and give them a lot more thought and analysis. I know it'll be a most rewarding artistic adventure.

You'd think that there's very limited action or drama to be had when your protagonist is stuck in a wheelchair. But this movie certainly helps prove that notion very, very wrong indeed. I don't want to spoil the movie, especially it's amazing ending. But let me just say that it certainly had me on the edge of my seat despite the whole time. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

I have to admit that this review of Rear Window feels a little thin, but words fail me right now. There's just so much that I love about this movie that I don't want to reveal too much about it in the hopes that those of you whom have not had a chance to watch it yet will get the full experience when you do. So yes, this is me totally and absolutely recommending that you go see this if you haven't already done so. It's is totally worth the adventure.

Rear Window is a rare type of movie that accomplishes so much without leaving you feeling overwhelmed or something. And thus given how masterfully this story was told, I'm happy to give this movie a full 5 interesting moments around the apartment complex out of a possible 5.

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