Monday, April 15, 2013

Movie of the Week – Rear Window

This week’s movie: Rear Window (1953).

The thriller is about photographer L.B. Jefferies. Wheelchair-ridden with two broken legs after an accident on assignment, he is stuck in his apartment. Bored, he peers into the lives of his neighbors through their windows. It all seems innocent until he thinks he has uncovered a murder.

Rear Window is one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces. The film came out during the 1950s when Hitchcock was at his most prevalent (also, now producing his films) – with a well-oiled group of fantastic collaborators, including: cinematographer Robert Burks, art director Hal Pereira, editor George Tomasini, writer John Michael Hayes, and composer Bernard Herrmann. However, on Rear Window, Hitchcock used composer Franz Waxman (who collaborated on a few of his films in the 1940s, like Rebecca), as Herrmann had yet to join the team.

The film stars two of Hitchcock’s favorite leads: James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Wendell Corey, Thema Ritter (who is particularly good), and Raymond Burr feature in support.

It is one of the most highly regarded films in cinema history (being on the AFI Top 100, Critics’ Top 250, and IMDb’s Top 250). In addition to being a great thriller, it comments on voyeurism (something that seems to be at its most habitual state today with the disgusting lack of privacy afforded so many – a practice we all consume with fervent disregard) and the inherent creepiness of it. Hitchcock loved narratives with obsessive main characters, and Jeffries certainly falls into that category. He has a beautiful girlfriend bending over backwards to garner his attention, and yet he is more interested in the lives of his neighbors, and what is worse is that he drags her into his obsession as well. The film is a must-see for both cinema and Hitchcock fans.

A personal story about the film – the first time I saw Rear Window was freshman year of college (living in Montana). It was cold outside and all I had was basic cable. Usually, in times like these, I would succumb to the mindless joy of one of TBS or TNT’s marathons. But, this particular day, I decided to watch Rear Window on AMC. I knew of Hitckcock, but I had never seen any of his films. So, I took it upon myself to engage in some forced-culturing. Little did I know, the film would completely open my eyes. I have always loved movies. I grew up with the adventure films and comedies of the 1980s, but I had never really made an effort to see the films that have shaped today’s movies (i.e., watch anything older than Jaws or Star Wars, unless it was a Pink Panther or James Bond movie). However, that did not stop me from having an opinion on what films were good. I was right in the middle of the indie film revolution, which was changing everything – filmmakers were now just as important as actors to me (directors like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Kevin Smith, Danny Boyle, among others). I go into this to show that I had some appreciation for cinema (just not a working knowledge of how we got here). Okay, back to Rear Window and Hitchcock – the film immediately put me on a path to see every (or at least almost every) Hitchcock film (and he has since been my favorite director), which lead to me decided to change my major and go to film school. And here we are today, I write about films for fun in my spare time. Rear Window is one of the most important films for me personally.

Trailer: Here

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