Rear Window (11/3/12)

Rear WindowMovie Two Hundred Forty Nine

A man with a broken leg in a wheelchair has nothing to do but sit and stare at his apartment courtyard from his Rear Window.

After breaking his leg while photographing a race, LB “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) is wheelchair bound with his only way to pass the time is to see what his neighbors are up to by looking out his window. In the shared courtyard there are several characters, a pretty young ballet dancer, a woman with a dog, a woman that sunbathes, a newlywed couple, a desperate woman seeking a mate, a struggling pianist, and a salesman named Thorwald (Raymond Burr) with a bedridden wife. When Jeff suspects Thorwald of killing his wife, he gets his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and detective Doyle (Wendell Corey) involved in his theory.

Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock film. Period. Sure, there are others that come close, films that I enjoy quite a bit but there are a few factors that make Rear Window something extra special to me. First and foremost is the setting; an apartment courtyard in New York City is fantastic and intimate and the camera is almost always pointing out from Jeff’s apartment. This truly gives us a sense of what he is seeing and we feel confined to a wheelchair along with him. Secondly, the tension of what is really happening. We don’t know for sure if Thorwald really killed his wife, at first it seems like Jeff is bored and looking for drama when there is none. Third, and arguably the most important, is Grace Kelly.

So much is accomplished with so little in Rear Window that it’s almost deceptive. We have a supporting cast of characters, as viewed through Jeff’s window and we learn about them just by watching them. We don’t know much about them personally, we only see small slices of their lives and yet we can piece together so much from them. Even Jeff’s initial accident isn’t talked about, it is shown via a sweep of his apartment and the story unfolds through photographs he has taken. I can’t think of any other film that has done more to inform the viewer in such a simple, logical way than Rear Window.

While I still have a long way to go before making a large dent in Hitchcock’s extensive catalog, I have yet to one of his films that fires on all cylinders the way that Rear Window does. I would be hard-pressed to find fault with it, though the same could be said for many of Hitch’s films. Rear Window is perfect in its simplicity and I cannot sing its praises enough.

I give it 5 time-lapse courtyard videos out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


49 responses to “Rear Window (11/3/12)

      • No, for Paul Knoop over at That Dutch Film Lover. I have a “Classics” page over there. I wrote up “Gojira” for The Artifice recently and I’m working on another follow up classic for them.

        • Oh OK – I’m way behind in my blog reading, so I’m not sure if I’ve caught that yet.
          I was approached by The Artifice but I don’t think I’d have time for any original content and I’d hate to just copy paste stuff over there

          • Yeah, I have that same dilemma. I thought I’d give it a shot but I would like for all of my original content to be posted on my blog or for a friend’s blog as a contributor. I may post a review there once in a while. So far I just have the one.

  1. This is my second favorite Hitchcock film after Vertigo. It’s also the first film I saw of the director and it blew me away. It’s pretty much a perfect film in my opinion. There are two keys moments I remember most, the shot that gives us an insight on Jeff by just showing pictures and with no dialogue, and the montage where Jeff examines the neighborhood. I had to examine that for a film course. Nice review.

    • There are few films where I would love to dissect and discuss at great length, but this is one of them. I plan on seeing Vertigo again very soon, I’ve only seen it once, long ago but I still think Rear Window will be my favorite. Thanks!

  2. This is a really interesting review, Andy. I have had issues with James Stewart in the past, he sort of grates on me. However, having watched twice within the last couple of years (after a long hiatus) I have started to appreciate it far more. Raymond Burr is an excellent baddy, I actually feel for him. Grace Kelly is just beautiful and the fashionistas out there will love her costume changes! I think this film appeals to the voyeur in me. I certainly see shades of influence in the modern ‘Frankie and Johnny’ as Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, Frankie, spends so much time peeking into the lives of others.

    My own favourite Hitchcock, without any shadow of doubt, is ‘North by Northwest’. I think I feel the same way about this as you do about RW. For me, other than the tension, the fantastic theme tune, there’s the wonderful backdrop and the dialogue is just fabulous. My brother asked me some time ago not what my favourite film is but what film could I watch every night for a week and not get bored. That, my friend, is it.

    Have you seen Mel Brook’s ‘High Anxiety’? That, to me, is just hysterical! Such a great send up of the Hitchcock greats. Check it out if you haven’t already! 🙂

    • I’m not hugely fond of Stewart in other movies, but in this one I think he fits the role pretty well. I feel for Raymond Burr too, you don’t want to believe that he actually did it, even during the finale, I keep expecting (no matter how many times I’ve seen it) there will be a realization he’s innocent.

      I like NxNW as well, it makes me wish Carey Grant was cast in RW, actually. I’m glad you like it so much, there are very few films I think I could watch every night for a week without tiring of them!

  3. This is the movie that sparked my interest in Jimmy Stewart. Since then I’ve fallen in love with his films as well as the films of Hitchcock. Thanks for the great review!

  4. I love Jimmy Stewart the every an that pretty much is the benchmark for the term. In Rear Window he puts in his best performance. No one has mentioned the remake starring Shia Labeuf. For an update to current times it wasn’t that bad.

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