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USA 1954
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
112 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Rear Window

Hitchcock's trademark mix of sex and violence gets stylish treatment here but it is Hitch's riffing on the theme of voyeurism and his visual and thematic symmetry that really gets cineastes going.

Set in Greenwich Village during a sweltering summer of open windows it has Jimmy Stewart in a kind a box seat to the theatre of life (a paradigmatically 50s American view of it anyway) suspecting that one of his neighbours (Raymond Burr) has murdered his wife. A highly limited setting is always an interesting challenge to a director and Hitchcock is well suited to such, his camera ingeniously moving around the confines of Stewart's room, and the apartment block courtyard, the single set that occupies the entire movie. Indeed, Hitchcock relishes the fact that Stewart is confined to a wheelchair for the duration, making impressive use of extreme close-ups and high and low camera angles.

The success of the film is ably contributed to by a playful script (whose many sexual innuendos were toned down for the censors) by John Michael Hayes (who also wrote To Catch A Thief and The Trouble With Harry), although arguably the false resolution that seems to end the mystery before it fires up again with the discovery of the dead dog was a mistake. What comes thereafter tends to drag out what has already been enjoyable but with diminished satisfactions.

Mention should also be made of the ravishing Grace Kelly who plays Stewart's girlfriend and who models some wonderful outfits, and a creative sound design that combines Franz Waxman's original music with hit tunes of the mid-50s, most noticeably Mona Lisa and That's Amore and a variety of contextual sounds, from distantly heard voices to Kelly's clanging bangles. Stewart with his cornpoke accent and mannerisms, although always watchable, is not particularly suitable to the part and it's a pity that Cary Grant, Rock Hudson or someone more fitted to Kelly and the setting was not cast.




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