72. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Rear Window

April 10, 2018

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay: John Michael Hayes

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr

Runtime: 112 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1954

 

★★★★★

 

Hitchcock’s films have always been in some way about placing the audience in the position of the voyeur, looking into the unfolding drama through eyes that are not their own. Many of his greatest works have utilised this idea as a means of approach, but in Rear Window it encompasses the entire frame of both the story and its worldview in a manifested way.

 

James Stewart’s L.B. Jefferies is the passive observer that stares into the unfolding narrative around him in all of its different facets, witnessing what may or may not be a murder in the midsts of this tranquil Greenwich Village apartment complex. The set that was constructed and shot entirely in camera is one of the greatest ever put on film. A living, breathing stage where everything and nothing unfold at once as the camera seeks to find something to occupy its attention – drifting into the animated, hilarious and heartbreaking trappings of the larger than life characters resting all around.

 

Yet, with all of this exciting external drama unravelling as a distraction, right at the centre of the film, there is Lisa. Lisa holds the character’s, the director’s and the audience's heart, and Grace Kelly plays her with unearthly elegance in such a manner that she glides through the screen without disturbing the tranquillity of the aura she induces – a perfect, magnificent presence who’s meddling in the plot only comes to pass because of Jeff’s inability to see her for what she is.

 

While Waxman’s score is limited, the soundtrack and gorgeous natural design bring the world to life in alternative ways. The costume design by Edith Head is perfect, as is the always reliable cinematography by Robert Burks and John Michael Hayes balancing act of a screenplay - never ceasing to amaze in its intimate spectacle.

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