A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

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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