Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spying on the neighbors

What would you do if you were laid up for eight weeks with a broken leg and couldn't go anywhere? Why, spy on the neighbors, of course!

Rear Window (Collector's Edition)In Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Rear Window," Jimmy Stewart plays L. B. Jeffries, a dashing photographer who usually spends his time out in the field getting the most exciting and difficult shots. Unfortunately, while he got a fantastic photo of a crashing race car, he also got a busted leg and is laid up in his second floor apartment in a cast. For seven weeks he's had nothing to do but watch the neighbors whose apartment windows all surround the same courtyard. But very late one night he hears a scream and notices one neighbor (a salesman) making repeated trips out into the rain with a large samples case. Even more troubling is that the man's nagging wife has disappeared. Jeffries becomes convinced the man killed her.

The entire movie is shown from the point of view from Jeffries' apartment, and is a perfect example of Hitchcock's movie-making genius. Has a murder really been committed? He tells the story by what he shows you with the camera, by what Jeffries and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) say and do, and by what you see of the neighbors. Hitchcock interjects subtle humor through Jeffries and the various neighbors, such as "Miss Lonelyheart" or "The Newlyweds," but when he decides to turn on the suspense, he turns it on all the way.

I'm not much of a film buff but since reading a biography about Hitchcock I've been trying to watch all of his films - many of which are absolutely amazing, and way better than much of today's movies. Few knew how to tell a story as well as Hitchcock, especially before the computerized special effects we have now. Pay attention to the opening sequence, where he sets up the whole story simply by panning around the room. And watch for Hitchcock's cameo appearance - he often put himself in his movies in clever ways. The version I watched also had an entertaining documentary with extras that talked about some of the challenges, like filming in such a small space. An excellent movie - and well worth your time!

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