Jump to: navigation, search

The Guardian (04/Feb/2000) - Rear Window

(c) The Guardian (04/Feb/2000)

Rear Window

This week sees the re-release, in a new print, of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window of 1954, the story of Jeff (James Stewart), an action photographer laid up with a broken leg, who has nothing to do but grumpily complain to Lisa, his beautiful society girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and voyeuristically watch his neighbours from his window - until he becomes convinced that he has seen one of them commit a murder.

Among the Hitchcock classics, this is the most bafflingly overrated: often dull, static, undramatic, and marooned on one single, giant set, which we are permitted to inspect from a very limited number of camera set-ups. It is certainly an intriguing and quintessentially urban idea, and there is something pleasingly ascetic in the way Hitchcock allows us no soundtrack other than the music Stewart actually hears and we only see what Stewart can see - but this is often frustrating and literal-minded.

Just 46 when the picture was released, Stewart looks and sounds like an old man, and his relationship with the ethereal Kelly is stilted; with nothing like, say, the simmering eroticism she had with Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. And there are some small, but noticeable line-fluffs from both Stewart and Kelly. Rear Window is always worth watching, but hardly one of the greats.