Now I’m getting into Hitchcock’s most revered films, and I’m getting more and more excited to watch the movies. While I had to trudge through some of his lesser known movies to get acquainted with his style so I didn’t fly blindly into the classics, now I’m starting to see why he has become such an iconic director. ”Rear Window” is definitely one that shows his unique knack for suspense. It’s a slow (and sometimes a little tedious) build towards a frightening conclusion, told with an Old Hollywood sensibility yet still a thrill.
“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms,” says Thelma Ritter’s nurse, Stella, to James Stewart’s wheelchair-bound Jeff, a photojournalist whose daring in the field has left him immobile in his apartment. Left largely to his own devices while his socialite girlfriend, appropriately played by future princess Grace Kelly, he turns to voyeurism while looking out the titular aperture. From afar, he watches his neighbors, imagining what their actions say about their lives and making up stories based on what he sees. Hitchcock’s clever camerawork mimics Jeff’s eyeballs, jumping from place to place based on what’s interesting.
But one day, his intuitions tell him that by connecting some mental dots, his neighbor Thorwald has committed murder. With nothing else to do but observe, he sneakily begins building a case against him despite the insistence of his friends and caretakers. Hitchcock keeps the suspense held back until the very end, not giving us anything but Jeff’s hunches to be suspicious of Thorwald.
Perhaps the biggest thing I took from “Rear Window,” though, was how very seldom Hollywood makes movies like Hitchcock’s anymore. His movies were all about using the artistic capabilities of cinema to manufacture suspense, thrills, and chills; now, filmmakers just through blood and gore at the screen, play some booming tune in the background, and call it a thriller. While I loved “Disturbia,” the self-proclaimed modern take on this Hitchcock classic, it certainly lacks Hitchcock’s artistic flair. I’m certainly more primed to like the Shia LaBeouf vehicle over the James Stewart starrer because of generational differences, but I recognize why one is a classic and the other is just a wannabe trying to cash in on the wizardry of one of cinema’s greatest icons.