|REAR WINDOW (1954)|
|"Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence."|
|Time: 112 mins.|
Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Sound.
There aren't many directors who could have made REAR WINDOW a success. Sure it has wonderful, talented performers, but if you tried to sell this film today it never would have gotten off the ground. "You want to film the entire story on one set? From one point of view? Are you crazy?" they would say. Well, when you've got a great story and a perfect feel for suspense anything is possible. I watch REAR WINDOW whenever I get the chance. It's not very often you get to watch greatness at work.
Every movement of the camera reveals something about the characters in this story. Not a frame is wasted. We learn all we need to know about Jeff's life and why he's trapped in a full-body cast before he ever utters a word. A world-famous photographer forced into the role of invalid because of an overly-curious nature, Jeff has no choice but to amuse himself by watching his neighbors...or so he protests. What else is a wheelchair bound man supposed to do all day? He gets paid to "spy" on people with his camera, why is it any different when he uses binoculars? His girlfriend, the perfect Lisa Freemont (played by Grace Kelly), and his home health aid Stella (Ritter) are very displeased with his new activity. It's just wrong to spy on your neighbors during their private moments. There are just some things we aren't supposed to know. Jeff is unimpressed by their arguments and soon has them involved in a potential murder mystery. The couple across the way had a fight and now the wife has mysteriously disappeared a hard thing to do for someone bedridden by illness.
Unable to think or talk about anything else, he finally convinces Lisa that he may be right. They try to get a detective friend of Jeff's to look into the matter, but the husband has a perfectly valid explanation. He sent her on a trip to the country. Jeff saw the luggage leave, but not the wife. Lisa becomes the legs of the operation, slipping into the neighbors apartment to try to find evidence of any wrongdoing. Finding the wife's rings in her best handbag, is all the proof they need that the wife was not on vacation. No happily married woman would leave her rings behind. (Remember this was made in the 50s.) Unfortunately, the husband soon realizes they know his ugly secret and their lives are put into grave danger. The noose tightens around both men's necks in a race to see who figures everything out first. The tension made all the more palpable because once Jeff is discovered he's got nowhere to hide.
The camera work in this film is superb. It is in constant, fluid motion giving the film great pace and a sense of action, though most of the time is spent looking out of Jeff's apartment. The film brings out the voyeur in all of us, causing you to wish you could just get a little better look into their lives. The acting is superb and the plot, well, why do you think they're trying to remake it? Stewart and Kelly have wonderful chemistry. He manages to be charming and sexy, despite spending the entire time trapped in a wheelchair. Of course, Kelly's so attractive she could make anyone appealing. She may be beautiful, but as we find out there's more to her than meets the eye. Stewart's innate likability is the only thing that keeps his actions from being outright creepy. Ritter is at her wise-cracking best, giving the film its macabre sense of humor.
It doesn't get better than this. This is a tense thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Hitchcock is a master filmmaker, who plays the audience like a fiddle. I've seen this movie more times than I can count and each viewing brings me great pleasure. There's nothing more enjoyable than a well-made movie and this is one of the best. Perfect casting, brilliant direction, visual style and an intelligent script you can't ask for more.