movie: Rear Window (1954)

Happily, after some disappointment with The Birds the other night, I moved directly into another Hitchcock film that pleased me far more. I found Rear Window entertaining, clever, funny, and visually pleasing. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly don’t hurt, of course. But fundamentally, I think murder-mystery ages better than horror, and that is what Rear Window is: not horror, but a noir murder mystery, which is one of my favorite things.

rear windowJames Stewart is L.B. Jefferies (“Jeff”), successful photographer of the adventurous sort, known for action shots, combat and the like. He is laid up with a broken leg, in a wheelchair, in his apartment, which suits him poorly, of course. Also irksome is his girlfriend and would-be fiancĂ©, the lovely Lisa (Grace Kelly), a wealthy socialite he feels can’t possibly accept his life on the edge. Bored and bothered, he takes to spying on his neighbors out the window. The entire movie takes place from this perspective: we only ever see the inside of Jeff’s apartment, and the view he sees out its window, into a courtyard and the windows that also look upon it. There’s a middle-aged couple with a little dog; a female sculptor; a young ballerina who entertains many men; a slightly older, lonely woman; a composer struggling with his latest work; and a salesman who appears to be entirely tired of caring for his invalid wife. Jeff is visited by Lisa as well as a nurse, and a police detective friend he calls on for help when he thinks he’s witnessed a murder.

I loved the visuals: both James Stewart and Grace Kelly (particularly in tandem), and the vignette-style views of courtyard and other apartments, almost a shadowbox effect. I loved the survey of lives and loves provided by Jeff’s perspective. The lives he peeks into represent a range of experiences of life, different levels of contentment. I thought the suspense was well-done in a classic, thunder-and-lightning, guns-and-beautiful-ladies style. Even the puzzle itself – the whodunit – was engaging, if imperfect. The business with the flashbulbs struck me as quite ridiculous, but I laughed good-naturedly, because the overall effect of the story, the sets and the cast was so enjoyable. My fourth Hitchcock film is definitely my favorite. Fans of Agatha Christie will be pleased.

Rating: 9 little red pills.

6 Responses

  1. I could go on and on, but here are three thoughts:

    1) A word for the great performance by Thelma Ritter. Hitchcock often gave his best dialogue to actresses who could snap it out, and she has many of the best lines here.

    2) Weird to think (I may do a blog post about this), but this movie, along with four other Hitchcocks, including Vertigo, which some people think is the best Hollywood movie ever) were out of circulation for a couple of decades. When they were re-released in theaters, one by one, it was a huge event. My then-wife and I saw each one as it came out. Weird from our current perspective, when pretty much everything is available all the time.

    3) This movie answers your question — in white text — a couple of posts ago. People want some things to be true, even when the evidence is, at best, ambiguous. Hitchcock knew that, and he was the master of bringing out that side in his audience.

  2. […] Anthony Lee Collins Posted on November 24, 2015 Julia over at Pages of Julia just reviewed Rear Window, and it made me think about when I was growing up, when you couldn’t see Rear Window at […]

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