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After seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window for the second time, I am even more convinced that the broo-haha surrounding Disturbia and its ripping it off was uncalled for. Besides the premise of a person confined to their window, seeing what they think is a murder, the two could not be anymore different. This film is one that will never age, whether it story, acting, or sheer inventiveness in its execution. Only Hitchcock could build the suspense as high as he does for almost two hours never leaving one room the entire time. Our hero is in a full leg cast and a prisoner to his room and window. Besides that interior, everything else we see is from his vantage point across to the rest of the apartment complex and a sliver of space opening to the street beyond. A clinic or choreography and showing us only what we need to know, Rear Window leaves you guessing right up until the final scene, unaware of what the whole truth to the situation is.

Technically, the film has no flaws. Its utilization of a pivoting camera that pans left to right out L.B. Jefferies apartment is one-of-a-kind. With only the zooms from his camera lens and binoculars, we are allowed to see everything he does, letting us as the audience come to our own conclusions as well as become a part of his. This is a slow burn of a story, revealing each new discovery as though the layers of an onion peeled away. The sheer amount of rehearsals must have been staggering. There are plenty of long takes that go from window to window, catching the precise moment of activity we need in order to continue the story. Each actor had to be able to hit their mark at the exact moment necessary; timed to perfection. It is a joy to think about the work that went into the film every time we are shown characters moving from room to room, stopping at each window for our benefit, yet never feeling unnatural. Full credit goes to the cinematographer for orchestrating it all.

The premise and craft are not the only things going for it. Acting-wise, there is not one misstep. James Stewart truly was the greatest actor of his generation. His delivery is uncanny and he can go from serious drama to light comedy without a blink. There is a lot of heavy emotional tension between him and his girlfriend that is treated with the same amount of care every other plot thread is. His relationship with Lisa Fremont, the gorgeous Grace Kelly, is mirrored in that of the quarrels and love trysts happening all around him. Without the murder mystery and the peeping into the lives of other couples, they may end up breaking up forever. His middle-class upbringing and photojournalist lifestyle just doesn’t match well with her patrician ways and necessity of wearing a dress only once to keep appearances up for her job. The two could not be anymore different except for the fact they are madly in love with the other.

Kelly is not just a pretty face either. Her performance is realistic at all times, keeping up with Stewart’s sarcastic wit and playing the girlfriend being spurned all while slowly becoming engrossed in the story of the Thorwalds across the way. She becomes a photojournalist herself in many ways, looking through the camera and coming to conclusions for what the story may entail. In opposition to this, Stewart morphs into that which he thinks can never change in his love, her ability to stay on the fringe while others do the hard labor. Many times towards the end, he is the one left to watch others risk their safety for his manifested theories. He himself is the helpless being unable to go into the trenches, but instead prepare everything for the others to carry out. Whether Thorwald killed his wife or she has taken a train to visit family, the hold the mystery has on them finally shows the two what the other goes through and their respect for the other blossoms to become as strong as their love.

My favorite aspect of the complete achievement, however, is the levity infused at all times. Sure the subject matter is very serious—I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at first created to be a commentary on the Red Scare and worrying about what your neighbors could be up to—but at every turn we get witty banter helping to alleviate the tension and give us viewers a breather. Stewart and Kelly are quite the team and they perform the words of John Michael Hayes’ script with ease. The timing is superb and many of the best lines are mixed into the dramatic dialogue always breaking up the suspense. We aren’t talking gags and jokes, but instead puns and sly shots taken as a result of the conversations at hand. This is one smart script and I find myself even more interested in seeing The Man Who Knew Too Much—the second version Hitchcock directed—to see how well the team does, joined together again.

Rear Window 9/10

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