My first week really happened by accident. I was planning on starting this journey by watching Schindler’s List, which I thought would be a pretty epic beginning. What ended up happening was I came home from work, was way too tired to sit through a three-hour long, super-depressing film, and my fiancee recommended Rear Window. Out of Hitchcock’s vast cinemography (is that a word?), I’ve only ever seen Psycho and The 39 Steps so Rear Window was a reasonable substitute.
Nominated for four Oscars: Best Director, Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Recording
After suffering a broken leg in the line of duty as a photographer, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Stewart) is stuck in his Greenwich Village apartment with only his neighbors to entertain him. There’s Miss Torso, the young dancer who practices every morning across the courtyard; Miss LonelyHeart, who strikes out in love every night; the Thorwalds, who argue all the time; and several other New York denizens. Jeff watches them all every day with nothing else to do; not even his beautiful model girlfriend, Lisa (Kelly), can distract him from their daily goings-on. So when Mrs. Thorwald goes missing one night, and Mr. Thorwald begins acting strangely, Jefferies is convinced that she was murdered—and that he can prove it.
The big thing I noticed when I was done with Rear Window is that there was no score. The sounds of New York City were the score, and that was beautiful. The records being played from the surrounding apartments, the music coming from the young songwriter’s studio, the sounds reverberating off the street all created a brilliant sense of realism. It went a long way toward making me feel like I was there.
What a claustrophobic movie, though. As the viewer, you feel as confined as Jefferies does, stuck in that apartment with nothing to do but spy on the neighbors. So as the tension mounts, as Jeffreies gets more and more engrossed in what’s going on across the courtyard, we find ourselves on the edge of our seats, hoping Thorwald doesn’t catch on, cause Thorwald kind of looks like that scary-looking guy on your block who doesn’t talk to anyone that you catch yourself staring at sometimes cause you wonder why anyone would want to live alone like that and then he catches you staring at him and a few days go by and then HOLY CRAP THAT’S HIM COMING THROUGH YOUR DOOR!
Watching Rear Window is like getting caught spying on your neighbors across the street: that initial jolt of adrenaline sends your brain spinning, followed by what seems like two hours of “oh my god, did he see me? Is he going to kill me?” panic and dread.
Why you should watch it: Some people say that this is Hitchcock’s best work, and while I can’t comment on that, I probably wouldn’t argue with them.
Why you shouldn’t: If you hate Jimmy Stewart’s voice.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Nominated for two Oscars: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Sound
After watching Rear Window, jumping to Vertigo seemed like the logical next step.
John “Scottie” Ferguson (Stewart) is forced to retire from the San Francisco police force after developing acrophobia (a fear of heights) after watching a fellow policeman fall to his death. Scottie thinks that his time as a detective is over until Gavin Elster, an old college buddy (Tom Helmore) hires him to track his wife Madeleine (Novak), whom he believes is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman. Scottie follows Madeleine all over San Francisco; when Madeleine throws herself into the San Francisco Bay, Scottie rescues her and falls dangerously in love with her. As Scottie follows her more and more, Madeleine turns out to be more than she seems.
The obvious things to talk about with Vertigo is the color palette Hitchcock uses here, and the twist near the end of the film. Violent use of greens, blues, yellows, and red make this a stunning film to watch, but also an infuriating film if you don’t know what those colors symbolize, which I did not. I had to do some color research immediately after the movie to fully appreciate it. Visually incredible though. The twist in Vertigo blew my mind to smithereens. I’m a sucker for twists in movies, and Vertigo‘s is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to talk about without giving it away, but if you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about.
Why you should watch it: It’s one of the greatest movies of all time (#73 on IMDB’s top 100 list), better than Rear Window in my opinion
Why you shouldn’t: If you’re colorblind, acrophobic, or hate the sound of Jimmy Stewart’s voice.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
After watching two Hitchcock films in a row, my fiancee thought we might as well complete a trio and make the week Hitchcock-themed. She loves Rope so that where we went.
Two college students, Brandon and Phillip (Dall and Granger, respectively) strangle a classmate because they feel it is a privilege they have over “inferior beings” and they stuff him in a trunk. They then stage a dinner party, inviting the murdered student’s parents, his girlfriend, and one of their old professors Rupert Cadell (Stewart), with the trunk as the centerpiece. As the macabre dinner unfolds and Brandon become more and more brash, Rupert suspects something is amiss when the murdered student doesn’t show up for dinner.
Based off of a play about a real-life murder, Hitchcock made Rope as an experiment, in which he would try and make a film with one continuous shot. Hitchcock viewed Rope as a failure of that experiment, and while I would agree, it doesn’t make Rope a bad movie. It is 80 minutes of uneasy tension; the film opens with Brandon and Philip strangling David and stuffing his body in a trunk, and as the guests begin to arrive, our eyes are constantly drawn to the trunk in the foreground. You can pinpoint the moment Cadell begins to suspect his former pupils, and from then on, it’s nail-biting time.
Jimmy Stewart is actually overshadowed by the performances of Dall and Granger. Brandon’s overconfidence and Phillip’s raw nervous energy is palpable throughout the film. It’s curious though that I found myself not wanting them to get caught, and I still can’t figure out how Hitchcock and his team made me do that. Is it because I felt bad for Phillip because I felt he was more coerced into doing this? Is it because, deep down, I really wanted to see what Brandon called the perfect murder? I don’t know. Rope wasn’t the greatest movie to end the week on, but it was still a gripping movie.
Scene to watch: The maid, Mrs. Wilson, begins clearing dinner off the trunk. Beautiful, nerve-wracking shot. Also, Stewart’s “Did you think you were God?!” speech at the end. Tears through the screen.
Why you should watch it: Short enough that even people who have trouble sitting through movies will enjoy it; tense enough to make it seem like Rope is at least twice that long. Dall and Granger’s performances are the best part of this film.
Why you shouldn’t: If you hate feeling nervous, or if you hate Jimmy Stewart’s voice.