Rear Window (1954)

1h 52m / PG / Mystery

Photog L. B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is stuck in his apartment while he heals from a broken leg, with the assistance of his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse (Thelma Ritter as Stella). But an observer’s gonna observe – the fact that he can’t get around at the moment doesn’t stop him from pointing his peepers at his neighbors. When he begins to suspect his neighbor of killing his wife, that voyeuristic habit threatens to spin him out of control – can he uncover the truth before he loses everything?

Whether or not Rear Window is Alfred Hitchcock’s best movie is arguable. But it’s undeniable that it’s the movie where he finally locked into the Hitchcock thing. He’s firing on all cylinders here, and when you’re talking about one of the most experimental, unconventional directors who ever got adopted by the mainstream, those are powerful cylinders indeed. Besides the overwhelming technical creativity and attention to detail on display (the entire courtyard and apartment complex was built on a Paramount studio set, in order to control every shot and maneuver into every nook and angle – they even built in a full drainage system for the rain sequence!), there’s Hitchcock’s particular sense of tone. He treats tension and release less like the building of an orchestral score and more like the meshing teeth of gears, rapidly alternating anxiety and humor. For a tense thriller about stalking a suspected murderer, it’s got a surprising amount of jokes. And he seems (at least in this stage of his career) to hate falling action. There’s buildup, unbelievable thrills and excitement, then climax, conclusion, and credits are rolling in less than three minutes. Conceptually, it makes sense when a work is built around tight plotting rather than character study. He’s only giving the audience a few days in their lives. Who needs denouement?

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