12 November 2002 | Aidan McGuinness
Excellent. Sharp, clever, funny, inventive, with great values all round.
Ah it's a movie that's in IMDB's Top 20, and it has good reason to be. For starter's let's look at the simple premise - James Stewart is L. B. Jeffries, a photographer who is currently recovering from an injury on assignment. With his broken leg he's stuck in his apartment, with nothing better to do than spy on his neighbours and be visited by his girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly), his officer friend Wendell, and his nurse, Stella. Jeffries observes the coming and goings of the various apartments he can observe (from his rear apartment window) and it is one of these - a Raymond Burr - who draws his attention because. could it be that the man has committed some heinous crime? Let's find out.
One of the beautiful things about the movie is its superb use of location. The whole movie, bar a couple of brief scenes, is set in the apartment. This would seem claustrophobic but Hitchcock never inhibits us like this - he lets us escape through Jeffries binoculars and camera lenses, and his roving camera swoops down to let us see what the characters see (but never, thankfully, anything more than that - this is how you do suspense!). The set design is wonderful - the apartment is just the right size and is nicely laid out. However the real praise is for all the other apartments visible to Jeffries - an actual habitable set with multiple stories where characters can be observed only as they pass by their own windows (yeah, they don't care much for curtains). There's a sense of individuality gone in to each home, despite the fact we can only see barely elements of each. This is helped by a nice, differing range of characters inhabiting each and going about their daily lives - there's a mini soap-opera contained in the movie, all observed at a distance. Excellent stuff.
Acting? It's great here. There's some nice depth to the characters here, with them feeling like actual real people rather than slick one-dimensional tags. Stewart is very proficient in this type of role - he was born to it - and Kelly proves she is more than just a pretty face, managing to effuse her character with both grace (*groan*) and steel. Even supporting characters like Stella are good (she has a wickedly black sense of thinking that's hilarious). What's so incredible is that the characters we observe from a distance in the other apartments (and with whom we never actually interact with) have as much depth as most main characters in movies nowadays. Excellent script and acting in this movie.
I've already praised Hitchcock's set location and camera work, so I won't prattle on about him much more. He does a stellar job here and, in my opinion, this is the best piece of work he's done (that I've seen). It's virtually flawless and you're never let down (or bored). Well done. It's a shame he lost out on an Oscar (although he did have tough competition that year with `On the Waterfront').
`Rear Window' is a great example of how you can successfully have sharp acting, script, and directing and not feel the need for a slew of swear words and gratuitous violence. Regarded as a classic, and deservedly so. 9.1/10