For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!
One of my favorite Hitchcock films- Rear Window is #48 on the countdown. I forget the ending every time I watch this film, so it’s suspenseful again every time. It’s such a fun film to watch. Our leading man is L.B. Jeffries or ‘Jeff’ (James Stewart), a successful international photographer. This adventurous world traveler broke his leg on a recent assignment and is confined to recuperate in his apartment. With nothing to pass his time, he watches his neighbors- often with the help of his camera with its fancy zoom. Jeff becomes obsessed with his neighbors- their habits, their lives- and then he witnesses a possible crime. He suspects his neighbor across the quad, salesman Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) of murdering his wife. Jeff tells his fiance, Lisa (Grace Kelly), who is unconvinced, but after she inadvertently participates in his voyeurism and witnesses Thorwald tying up and old trunk with heavy rope she suspects he may be right.
Jeff phones an old Army buddy turned detective, Tom (Wendell Corey) to look into the case, but he doesn’t find anything. Tom offers all the counter-arguments to the growing visual evidence that Jeff, Lisa and us as the viewers are seeing. Hitchcock does a fabulous job of blurring the line between reliable and unreliable, and showcasing the ethics and illicit nature of peeking into other’s private lives.
Jeff, Lisa and Stella (Thelma Ritter), Jeff’s visiting nurse, continue to spy on Thorwald, in spite of Tom’s arguments against the murder. They begin to piece together stories of what may have happened without any visual evidence. Hitchcock masterfully plants images of this gruesome murder in our imaginations without showing us the body or showing a single drop of blood. It’s incredible. Lisa and Stella decide to investigate what may have been buried under some flower bushes when Lisa takes it one step further. She enters Thorwald’s apartment, where we sense the danger that spikes upon his return. We watch the proceedings from Jeff’s frantic point of view- feeling just as helpless and worried as he. Our heroine is saved, but the climax is still yet to come. I’ll not give it away, suffice to say that it’s brilliant.
It’s interesting to compare Rear Window with Hitchcock’s previous film on the list (and my favorite Hitchcock film) – #55 North by Northwest. In ‘NBNW‘ our hero Roger Thornhill moves from location to location throughout America, and in ‘RW‘ our hero is in a single location, his New York apartment. Both are impressive, and manage to tell stories on their own. Both films feel full and well directed in all aspects- but ‘NBNW‘ is much more complex in the scope and back stories of the characters. It builds and explains and gives you a good drama before it gives you a thriller. ‘RW‘ is a thriller from the word ‘go’. Several similarities combine with Hitchcock’s affection for powerful blondes and powerless silver foxes. Both films also use visual choices in very thoughtful and meaningful ways to involve the viewer.
In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns: