A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)

An almost perfect movie. Rear Window has a solid framework provided by John Michael Hayes's screenplay, which has wit, sex, and suspense in all the right places and proportions. The action takes place in one of the greatest of all movie sets, designed by J. McMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira and filmed by Alfred Hitchcock's 12-time collaborator, Robert Burks. The jazzy score by Franz Waxman provides the right atmosphere, that of Greenwich Village in the 1950s, along with pop songs like "Mona Lisa" and "That's Amore" that come from other apartments and give a slyly ironic counterpoint to what L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) sees going on in them. It has Stewart doing what he does best: not so much acting as reacting, letting us see on his face what he's thinking and feeling as as he witnesses the goings-on across the courtyard or the advances being made on him by Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) in his own apartment. It's also Kelly's sexiest performance, the one that makes us realize why she was Hitchcock's favorite cool blond. They get peerless support from Thelma Ritter as Jefferies's sardonic nurse, Wendell Corey as the skeptical police detective, and Raymond Burr as the hulking Lars Thorwald, not to mention the various performers whose lives we witness across the courtyard. It's a movie that shows what Hitchcock learned from his apprenticeship in the era of silent film: the ability to show rather than tell. In essence, what Jeffries is watching from his rear window is a set of silent movies. That Hitchcock is a master no one today doubts, but it's worth considering his particular achievement in this film: It contains a murder, two near-rapes, one near-suicide, serious threats to the lives of its protagonists, and the killing of a small dog, and yet it still retains its essential lightness of tone.

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