Saturday, October 02, 2010

Hitchcock Month - Rope

Rope (1948)
Starring Jimmy Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, and Joan Chandler
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I'm a sucker for the cinematic set pieces known as "the long take" and "real time" and Hitchcock's Rope (his first film in shot in Technicolor) utilizes both of these film techniques.  An experiment for the director, Rope is told without any edits...sort of.  Because there was no way that cameras in the 1940s could hold more than ten minutes of film, Hitch had to find creative ways to make it "appear" as if everything was shot in one take.  While it's certainly obvious what he was doing (zooming into close-ups of the back of someone's sportscoat isn't exactly something we see or like to see in films), the long takes are still impressive feats.

Oddly enough, though, the long takes, at times, decrease the tension.  Hitchcock is so deft at creating suspense through editing that the continuous shots don't allow him to be the genius that he is.  That's not to say there aren't moments of excitement (one rather innocent scene in particular of a maid cleaning up after dinner seems so "normal" but is incredibly nerve-wracking), but they're not as prevalent as in some of his other films.

Rope tells the simple story of two young twentysomethings Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) who decide to murder their friend.  They hide the body in a chest in their apartment and decide to test their luck by having a party.  In addition to inviting the murdered boy's father, they also invite their former prep school teacher Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart) who suspects something is awry with his students.  

The film is a bit too talky for its own good.  It feels like a play and there are reasons plays aren't filmed.  I could almost overlook the talkiness if the acting was a bit more natural as opposed to feeling over-the-top.  Farley Granger, in particular, who also starred in Strangers on a Train, is pretty awful.  Overacting to the nth degree, Granger's character, that of nervous nelly Phillip, is close to laughably bad. 

Still, Rope is a good film, just not a great one.  The above may seem riddled with complaints, but I absolutely enjoyed viewing the flick.  It's a fun experiment, but sometimes when experimenting you don't always get the results you desire.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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