Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rear Window

Rear Window (Collector's Edition)

#42 (1998) and #48 (2007) AFI Top 100 Movies List

Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder". Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, and Thelma Ritter.

The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best. The film received four Academy Award nominations and was ranked #42 on AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list and #48 on the 10th-anniversary edition. In 1997, Rear Window was added to the United States National Film Registry.

* James Stewart as L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries
* Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
* Wendell Corey as NYPD Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
* Thelma Ritter as Stella
* Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
* Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
* Ross Bagdasarian as the Songwriter
* Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
* Frank Cady and Sara Berner as the husband and wife living above the Thorwalds.
* Jesslyn Fax as Sculptor neighbor with a hearing aid
* Rand Harper as the Newlywed man
* Irene Winston as Mrs. Anna Thorwald
* Havis Davenport as the Newlywed woman

Director Alfred Hitchcock makes his traditional cameo appearance in the songwriter's apartment, where he is seen winding a clock.

Hitchcock's fans and film scholars have taken particular interest in the way the relationship between Jeff and Lisa can be compared to the lives of the neighbors they are spying upon. The film invites speculation as to which of these paths Jeff and Lisa will follow. Many of these points are considered in Tania Modleski's feminist theory book, The Women Who Knew Too Much:

* Thorwald and his wife are a reversal of Jeff and Lisa—Thorwald looks after his invalid wife just as Lisa looks after the invalid Jeff. Also, Thorwald's hatred of his nagging wife mirrors Jeff's arguments with Lisa.
* The newlywed couple initially seem perfect for each other (they spend nearly the entire movie in their bedroom with the blinds drawn), but at the end we see their marriage deteriorate as the wife begins to nag the husband. Similarly, Jeff is afraid of being 'tied down' by marriage to Lisa.
* The middle-aged couple with the dog seem content living at home. They have the kind of uneventful lifestyle that horrifies Jeff.
* The Songwriter, a music composer, and Miss Lonelyhearts, a depressed spinster, lead frustrating lives, and at the end of the movie find comfort in each other: The composer's new tune draws Miss Lonelyhearts away from suicide, and the composer thus finds value in his work. There is a subtle hint in this tale that Lisa and Jeff are meant for each other, despite his stubbornness. The piece the composer creates is called "Lisa's Theme" in the credits.
* Miss Torso, a beautiful dancer, initially seems to live a carefree bohemian lifestyle and often has various men over at her apartment. In the end, however, it is revealed that she has been waiting for her sweetheart, a slight-framed and boyish soldier, to return.

The characters themselves verbally point out a similarity between Lisa and Miss Torso (played by Georgine Darcy).

Other analyses, including that of François Truffaut in Cahiers du cinéma in 1954, center on the relationship between Jeff and the other side of the apartment block, seeing it as a symbolic relationship between spectator and screen. Film theorist Mary Ann Doane has made the argument that Jeff, representing the audience, becomes obsessed with the screen, where a collection of storylines are played out. This line of analysis has often followed a feminist approach to interpreting the film. Doane, who used Freudian analysis to claim women spectators of a film become "masculinized", pays close attention to how Jeff's rather passive attitude to romance with the elegant Lisa changes when she metaphorically crosses over from the spectator side to the screen: it is only when Lisa seeks out the wedding ring of Thorwald's murdered wife that Jeff shows real passion for her. In the climax, when he is pushed through the window (the screen), he has been forced to become part of the show.

Other issues such as voyeurism and feminism are analyzed in John Belton's book Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window".

Rear Window is a voyeuristic film. As Stella (Thelma Ritter) tells Jeff, "We've become a race of Peeping Toms." This applies equally to the cinema as well as to real life. Stella invokes the specifically sexual pleasures of looking that is identified as exemplary of classical Hollywood. The majority of the film is seen through Jeff's visual point of view and his mental perspective. Stella's words sum up Hitchcock's broader project as film maker, namely, to implicate us as spectators. While Jeff is watching the rear window people, we too are being "peeping toms" as we watch him, and the people he watches as well. As a voyeuristic society, we take personal pleasure in watching what is going on around us.

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