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Someone said there are two kinds of people in the world, there are people who observe world as it passes by and there are people who are active, adventurers who are part of the world. Normally, J. B. “Jeff” Jeffries is considered the latter. He works as a famous professional photographer until he gets a little too close to the action on a racetrack and breaks his leg. He is put in a wheel chair and confined to his small apartment in Greenwich Village, Manhattan with nothing else to do all day but look out at the neighbors.
He then becomes obsessed with the salesman who lives in the adjacent apartment, and is convinced that he has murdered his wife. With the help of his stunning girlfriend Lisa and his in-home nurse Stella, they investigate the strange events that have occurred. This shot of James Stewart, it shows what he’s looking at, see his reaction. That is the heart of Hitchcock’s filmmaking.
He looks, you see what he sees, he reacts. He has incredible ability to out you in the POV of character. Does with considerable dexterity and is particularly noticeable because the entire picture plays out in one apartment.
It’s limitless really, the power of cutting and showing various images and the assembly of them (The Juxtaposition of imagery relating to the mind of the individual). And what a wonderful job James Stewart does too. He doesn’t have any dialogue, yet you can interpret everything he’s thinking and feeling The set was fascinating; you literally can see all the apartments and all the different people.
Problem: They had to create a whole courtyard and they didn’t have stages that high. Some studios stored furniture underneath. Cut the floor out.
So Jeffries’s 2nd floor room was on the actual stage level and the lawns and first floor was in the basement. It was difficult for the lighting crew and very hot for anyone working in the top because they didn’t have the same lighting we have today, or the same HD lenses and whatnot so all of these things conspired against them. It was an enormous task and the workers and performers took a beating. The set was lit for 4 time periods of the day: Morning, afternoon, twilight, and nighttime. A big doll house Hitchcock was playing with.
Music: In rear window, Hitchcock uses very sparing and precise sound and music to create the atmosphere of the world in which this story takes place. A world in which is defined by the court yard. It opens with a jazz melody which is supposed to be the streets of Greenwich Village circa. 1950’s. after that, there basically is no score. The only music was when someone was playing music across the way. If someone was listening to a record, or playing the piano, you’d hear it. But other then tat there was no score.
Which was very unusual and at that time daring soundtrack. It gives a kind of sense that nobody is intruding, this is real. And Hitchcock was aware of that. The interesting thing is how he shot it in order to get the sound quality that he did. He actually shot live sound from Jeffries POV to capture the distance between the window he was sitting in and the various apartments across the way. The hollow sound is pretty genuine. There are two elements of James Stewart’s character that we question thorough the film.
First, his personal life: will he end up marrying the glamorous and successful Lisa? And what’s going on outside the window of his apartment, in the windows of all the apartments across the way. To some degree to avoid looking at his own problems he focuses on what’s going on out there. We as the voyeurs can focus with him. See various dramas unfolding and in one way or another illustrating life and relationships. For better or ill. Miss Torso, whether a Queen Bee with her pick of the drones, or fighting off a pack of hungry wolves.
There is a great sadness to Miss Lonely Hearts, a woman with an overwhelming desire for a man, yet not knowing what to do when she coaxes one in from the streets. There’s a honeymoon joke in the actions of newlyweds. He’s seen raising the shade at intervals only to be called back to her arms by the bride. A composer; a couple with a little dog, and the other types glimpsed all seem like real people, and their soundless contributions give the principles top-notch support. We meanwhile, are seeing Lisa come into his apartment and present the promise of a relationship that could be unbelievably good, but he resists.
One of the reasons Hitchcock’s movies last as well as they do, is not only his technical brilliance, it’s his humanity, the ability to deal with everyman. And he finds humanity in even in his darkest of villains. There’s something always sympathetic about his villains. You know Norman Bates is an incredibly sympathetic character to me, certainly the way Anthony Perkins portrayed him. And even in rear window, were we only know Lars Thorwald from peeking through his window from across the courtyards.
And we begin to suspect this man and ultimately become afraid of him. But at the same time you find yourself being oddly sympathetic with him and feel like he was trapped in that life over there and driven to what he did. This is a masterpiece, as most of Hitchcock’s works. This however, is a rare type of film that manages to be unbearably suspenseful and fascinating using a minimum of sex and violence, which is quite refreshing. It’s an absolutely amazing movie that perfectly blends thrills, romance, and even touches of comedy.
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