Rear Window (1954)
Starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Whenever we watch movies, we're kinda being voyeurs. Secretly looking into the lives of people we don't know, watching their every move, and judging them based on their actions. My recent viewing of the reality-driven documentary Catfish coupled with watching Rear Window on the same day made this voyeuristic idea really stick in my craw. I'd love to say that this flick (which is deemed a classic by nearly all) doesn't work just to be a contrarian -- but it works on nearly every level.
Jimmy Stewart is L.B. Jefferies (Jeff, for short), a world-traveling photographer who is stuck in his apartment with a broken leg. To pass the time, he stares out his window and watches neighbors in his courtyard apartment complex. What starts out rather innocently turns into something frightening when he believes that one of his neighbors (Raymond Burr) killed his wife. With the help his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), Jeff attempts to solve the alleged crime.
Let's start by saying that similar to Hitchcock's Lifeboat which was contained to the boat itself, the camera in Rear Window never leaves Jeff's apartment. Yes, we see outside the apartment, but we only see it through Jeff's eyes. We see what he sees (including a sexy introductory first-person shot of Grace Kelly moving in on us with her crimson red lips slightly parted for a kiss that we'd certainly be happy to give her). We are the voyeur just as he is the voyeur. In my opinion, moreso than in any other Hitchcock film, the viewer is transported into the movie and essentially becomes L.B. Jeffries.
And let's be honest -- with the alluring Grace Kelly by your side, who wouldn't want to be in Jimmy Stewart's shoes? Kelly, whom I thought was rather flat and cold in Dial M for Murder, is charming here, as is Stewart (but when isn't he charming). Raising the flick to another level is Thelma Ritter as the abrasive, yet kind nurse whose line deliveries are good for a chuckle nearly every time she speaks. Plus, add in the rather amusing cast of neighbors whom we come to know through our view from Jeff's window and all of the acting is top notch.
What really amazes me about the flick (and what I foolishly didn't really notice until this viewing which is why I'll keep mentioning it) is what I already stated above -- we never leave Jeff's apartment, but somehow Hitchcock manages to keep moving his camera so the viewer never gets bored. With the exception of Psycho, this very well could be Hitchcock's best directed film. It may not have the extravagance of North by Northwest or the cleverness of Rope's long takes, but Hitch has crafted a film that literally places the viewer in the shoes of the main character -- a rather unique and difficult task that he acheives with seemingly great ease.
The RyMickey Rating: A