Saturday, July 1, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Rear Window


I happened to catch Rear Window on TCM last week, one of Hitchcock's most beloved films. We love it in part because it's a thriller and a mystery, the very definition of a nail biter. That it boasts the movie star pairing of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly is another plus. Thinking about it, their relationship isn't unlike that of Cary Grant and Kelly in To Catch a Thief, she the active pursuer, he the reluctant catch. Remember that scene where Lisa (Kelly) is sitting in Jeff's (Stewart) lap, wearing one of her stunning couture outfits, kissing him in his pajamas, while he responds with tiny passionless kisses because he can't keep his mind off what he's seen from his window? 

That awkward kissing scene

That, I think, is what we love most about Rear Window, the ability to play nosy neighbors and join Stewart and Kelly—and his nurse, the snappy mouthed Stella (Thelma Ritter)—as they look out the window. Checking out all the apartments in the courtyard to see what everyone is up to. We easily see inside the apartments because everyone's windows are flung open wide to let any chance of a breeze in—except for the newlyweds who keep their blinds closed. Summer in New York, there's no AC and they're having a typical New York summer heat wave. 



It's magic to watch, to play voyeur. Of course, Jeff's a photojournalist so the instinct to watch without being seen comes naturally to him but it doesn't take long for Stella and Lisa to become addicted too. 



I can relate. My desk here at home sits right in front of a window facing a lawn flanked by other apartments. Sadly most of my neighbors keep their blinds drawn but I plead guilty to looking up as they cross the grass on the way to the laundry room, the garbage or the garage. The view is especially compelling when someone is having a barbecue on their patio or even just busy watering their plants. Kids playing outside, kicking a ball around or running after each other with water pistols on hot summer days. All that ordinary business of living is a welcome distraction as I try to write. What they're doing, what they're wearing. Look how they're walking in a line, not next to each other. Did they have a fight? Are they angry at each other or did I hear laughter? If I lived in Jeff's apartment, I don't see how I could tear my eyes away. Besides the man they suspect of murdering his wife (Raymond Burr) there's plenty to look at from the Rear Window.


 The Traveling Salesman (Raymond Burr) 
He's the main focus but the other residents give us plenty to think about.


The Couple on the Fire Escape
They sleep on the fireplace because it's too damn hot. 
Their curious dog plays a pivotal part in the mystery and pays a price for his curiosity.




Miss Lonely Hearts 
A lonely middle aged woman and her non-existent dinner date.

The Songwriter
Playing the same notes over and over again, struggling to compose a song, in the end his haunting music saves Miss Lonelyhearts. Watch for Hitchcock's appearance.


The Torso
Dancing day and night, always working on that body, she knows how to hold the male gaze. But the only gaze she really wants belongs to her serviceman boyfriend/husband.

Miss Hearing Aid. 
Like us she's a bit of a nosy neighbor too, sculpting outside, she doesn't hear so well but she sees everything. The only character who interacts with Raymond Burr's salesman.


The Newlyweds. 
After they make their entrance the shade is drawn and we'll only see the husband again, coming to the window briefly before his new bride calls him back to the bedroom.


Rear Window based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich is this week's #SaturdayMatinee, available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay and Vudu. Check the everchanging Netflix.

And now the vintage trailer. 
Don't you love how Jimmy Stewart talks directly to you?




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