Rear Window (1954)

















It's almost half-way through Hitchcock's famous "Rear Window" that we feel any peril and it's quite near the end of the picture that the real suspense comes; yet that's how it's supposed to be. If it was all fright we wouldn't have all the window watching—all scares, and no typical romance. So it's hard to fault a movie because it wasn't what we thought it would be...which is what I kept telling myself while I watched "Rear Window".
Typical of Hitchcock, Freud abounds on the screen via psychoanalysis and sexual innuendos. To be fair, "Rear Window" is a slightly misogynistic work that doesn't quite deliver in the way that other famed Hitchcock words do like "Rebecca" or "Psycho".
Regular collaborator James Stewart plays L. B. Jeffries, or Jeff, a reporter and photographer who was right in the thick of things until an accident led him to be confined to a wheelchair and an apartment. He spends his days looking out of the rear window (hence the title) and being a peeping tom for everyone in the back of his neighborhood.
The temperatures are high and all the lights stay on inside, so it makes great material for a stalker, which is what Jeff becomes although he doesn't want to admit that.
Jeff has a woman that comes and massages him in the morning named Stella (Thelma Ritter). This woman is the comic relief of "Rear Window"—blunt, funny, and sarcastic.
Then there's Lisa (Grace Kelly) who is Jeff's lover and is just as angelic as the scene introducing her. She is light, beautiful, and graceful.
But Jeff is concerned about their relationship, rather where it might be headed. He finds Lisa too perfect, something that Stella (and I) scold him for. I don't think that being perfect is that bad of a character flaw to break up a relationship for, but then again, I'm not Jeff and stuck in a wheelchair.
The characters in the back yard, the ones that are being watched, are diverse and they feel like they're out of a play: the beautiful ballerina, the angry married couple, the newlyweds, the sculptor, the musician, the lonely one, and the average couple...and then, there's Jeff.
All Jeff really wants to do is go back to his job, being a photographer.
But as the weeks go by, slowly, he finds more and more amusement out of spying on the neighbors and soon he is following them all through the night.
One man in particular is of interest to Jeff, the man who has been fighting with his wife all week long. Jeff observes the man leaving his apartment several times in the middle of the night, in the rain and carrying a case of some kind.
Jeff ponders of what could lead a man to come and go several times at three in the morning, but puts it out of his mind when he starts to be distracted with Lisa and her perfection.
He eventually lets Lisa in on his spying charades and she joins in with him for a few moments before condemning the activity.
Yet the thought that the man might have killed his wife lingers in Jeff's mind and won't go away. It's always there...nagging and festering.
Eventually the film takes a turn towards obsession after covering many topics from psychology itself to marriage. The obsession is in Jeff's mind and it overrides a morality that most people have—it even affects Stella and Lisa who both catch the deadly disease.
"Rear Window" is fascinating in the way that watching people is innately interesting. When someone doesn't know you're looking at them, you see their true form and this is what I feel that "Rear Window" is all about.
Strip away the facades and wash off the makeup and who do you have underneath?
The movie drags, like most Hitchcock I've seen, it takes about thirty minutes or so to really get into the movie. The ending is exciting and full of mushy sentiments, but still fun.
It's not the best, but it is far from the worst.






Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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