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Rear Window (1954)

Now this is the good stuff. The best part of this movie is how simple the directing is. The directing does not get in the way of the script, and it succeeds in making it even better. I don't mean to belittle the role of the director or Hitchcock here: It's known that Hitchcock always has a big role in his scripts before he is ready to direct them. In addition, simplicity is one of the hardest things to achieve in art, and as a director your job (at least as it was up until La Nouvelle Vague) is to make the camera invisible—to tell the story the cleanest way possible. For example, when I'm writing these blogs, I have an idea of what I want to say, but then every word I write gets me further from my point. Everything is perfect in my head until I try to put it into the world. Achieving simplicity is incredibly hard. If that's not enough, Hitchcock also said this:

"To make a great film, you need three things: the script, the script, and the script."

This film is artfully done, and Hitchcock saves his camera exploration for the big moments— the always-terrifying moment where Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) finally discovers Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) spying on him, looking straight into the camera. Or just after that when Jeff is using flash bulbs in the dark to slow down Lars.

So upon looking up articles to see what people say about Rear Window, someone would probably tell me I'm neglecting the brilliant way Hitchcock turns the viewer into a voyeur, how we see what is happening through Jeff's eyes, and that shot reverse shot is a revolutionary discovery known as the Kuleshov effect. I suppose I am. I forget how new of a medium filmmaking is sometimes and all of these things we take for granted had to be discovered sometime.

Although in my defense, if I were to reduce Rear Window and all of these films shot by shot to really study each cut, I'd still be working on my first blog post. At that point the best way to get the most out of these films is to watch them over and over until they are memorized. That way during editing it'll be easier to spot mistakes intuitively rather than strictly analyzing every little thing. That's my philosophy at least.

Anyways, what I really got out of this film was the storytelling— how Lisa (Grace Kelly) wins over Jeff, how everyone slowly starts to believe him. This is a picky point, but the only flaw I could imagine in this film is that the audience is the only one who always believes Jeff the whole time, rather than having to convince us that he's not crazy. And we know he's not crazy because we know it's a movie, and that murder has to happen, or else this would be a waste of two hours. The transition through the story is seamless, all the way down to the dialogue: Jeff getting Lisa involved in his conspiracy theory after he asks if she has any problems (perfection being the reason he doesn't like her). He tells her he has a problem, and—proving to be a girl that just wants to be in his life (which she previously established)— she asks him about it. These little steps get her involved more and more, until she's able to spot clues that Jeff isn't because of her "feminine intuition." The flaw he sees in Lisa allows her to be more involved with his danger-seeking behavior. Each scene is perfectly tuned this way to make the underlying story invisible.

Maybe the reason I praise the script first is because it sets up a situation where Hitchcock can create a rich visual story from it. The script isn't just the dialogue, it also decides what we see, and is in many ways has the first hand in directing. Hitchcock capitalized on this script and turned it into something that remains shocking more than sixty years later, and still as shocking as I saw it the first time.

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