The Dog Who Knew Too Much

Thanks to Comrade K for drawing my attention to the above.

“Reading from top to bottom…”

REAR WINDOW is maybe the Hitchcock film I love most. I saw it at the cinema on its 80s rerelease when I guess I was a teenager. Reaching this point in Hitchcock Year feels like a turning point. Hitch begins his deal at Paramount, where he basically worked for the rest of his career, with side-trips to MGM and Universal and Warners. He begins working with John Michael Hayes as screenwriter, the last regular writer Hitch would have (after Elliot Stannard, Charles Bennett, Ben Hecht, and of course Alma). He resumes working with James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Burks shoots, Franz Waxman scores, and George Tomasini joins the team as editor. It feels like a seminal moment.

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The story derives from Cornell Woolrich’s short story It Had to be Murder. Woolrich himself had a bad leg and maybe spent a lot of time looking out the window, like Jimmy Stewart. Three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, by various directors, derive from Woolrich stories, and Hitchcock himself directed a TV play, Four O’Clock, based on another Woolrich source. Woolrich was a lousy prose stylist, whose delirious fictions sometimes reach a kind of addled poetry where his vices become virtues and he looks like a good writer reflected in a funhouse mirror. Even when that doesn’t happen, he’s a lot of fun, and creates heaps of suspense. Like Hitchcock, he doesn’t always seem to care about logic or plausibility — Woolrich actually maybe doesn’t know what such things are — but he is attuned to nightmare. I’d love to film Rendezvous in Black, in which a girl on a street corner is randomly killed by a beer bottle slung from an aeroplane, and her traumatized boyfriend goes on a revenge spree, tracking down the men who were on that plane (rented for a drunken hunting trip) and killing the person each of them loves most… “A nutty kind of a book,” as Jean Harlow might say.

In John Michael Hayes’ hands, the story of It Had to be Murder becomes more sophisticated, with a cast of New York window inhabitants, each with their own little narratives, and the central character is more developed via his relationships with Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey. Reading from top to bottom –

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“Who are you?”

Grace Kelly gets that great, dreamlike entrance, with the Edith Head fashions and strange step-printed kiss (Hitchcock tries to explain how it’s done in the Truffaut interview, but makes no sense: “Those are little pulsations I give the camera…”) Note how the Gershwinesque city, less salubrious than in ROPE but with the same sodium-orange sunset, participates in her introduction, a little car horn parp sounding distantly after each of her names. “Lisa…” Peep! “Carol…” Toot! “Fremont.” Meep! (The last so quiet I may be imagining it.)

Lisa is a real woman who only seems like a dream, which is her big problem with James Stewart’s LB Jeffries. He can’t imagine this dream will last, he has to spoil the relationship before it evaporates on him. Screwy, but plausible. My teenaged self was fascinated by all this. I think I also grasped that all Jeff’s reasoning was specious and basically he was afraid of commitment. When you have Thelma Ritter to explain these things, all is clear.

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Ritter is of course wonderful — it was probably years before I saw her in anything else, but what a career she had. PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (“Anyway I tried,”) A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (“Soup’s on!”), even Leisen’s THE MATING SEASON (“Eventually a snapped and hit her. With a banana.” — a funny line that’s approximately 10,000 times funnier the way she says it) and all this not despite her walnut face, raspy voice, plebeian demeanor, but triumphantly because of it.

Wendell Corey would be the weak link in any film except that here we don’t really need to like him. He’s a good actor, when he doesn’t sound like a slowed-down tape of a drunk man hanging by his ankles, but he exudes a kind of anti-charisma. It’s a bit like the legendary minus factor — when an actor has this, they become much sought-after, because you can bring them into any scene that’s in danger of becoming too exciting. It’s always a shock to find Corey in a leading man role, as it would be if you turned on your TV one night and found Barbara Stanwyck co-starring with a wardrobe. I don’t mean he’s wooden. I just mean he’s square, hollow, stiff, creaky and reverberant. He works perfectly here.

“Here lie the broken bones of LB Jeffries.”

The opening sequence, displaying “Hitchcock’s dollhouse,” is a beaut, cramming in so much visual and aural exposition (location, time of year, temperature, hero’s name, profession, cause of accident…) that it becomes positively funny. As a teenaged viewer I assumed the woman on the magazine cover was Grace Kelly, but she’s not. She is wearing a black top slightly like Grace’s though, so I assume she’s a sort of surrogate. And Stewart has framed a negative image of the portrait, suggesting his negative feelings about the relationship, and maybe about this kind of fashion photography. The society lady/action photographer romance was apparently suggested by Ingrid Bergman’s fling with Robert Capa.

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“…rear window ethics…”

Hayes’ dialogue not only surpasses what Woolrich might have produced, but Hayes created all the supporting characters, a considerable embellishment of the original yarn. This movie is pretty much a Swiss watch, with multiple narrative uses made of Stewart’s profession, an unhurried development of the story, with convincing reversals and character development cunningly woven into the central crime plot. The biggest cheat is probably the question of how and why Lars Thorwald, our murderer next door, buried his wife’s head in the garden without being spotted.

For those who prefer VERTIGO and other more mysterious Hitchcocks, there are one or two unresolved mysteries in REAR WINDOW to test our negative capabilities. Thorwald’s mistress is a shadowy figure — to what extent is she in on the crime? What is the attraction the paunchy killer holds for her? And why did Thorwald kill his wife anyway? True, he wasn’t happy with her, and he might not have been able to divorce her, but he didn’t have to live with her, did he? Maybe he did. His little world starts to look awfully grim.

“…the hundred knives you’ve probably owned in your life…”

But I don’t find this movie, with its voyeur hero and dismembered victim, excessively morbid. On my first viewing, I remember being transported to this foreign world of 1950s New York, meeting these rather appealing people, and being blown away by the juggling of the central storyline with the subsidiary characters in all those windows. I liked how they all had their own stories.

I also struggled to see how the film consisted only of Stewart’s POV and his reactions, as several critics remarked. Although the camera stays in the apartment with Stewart until he falls out the window, apart from a couple of God’s-eye high angles when the dog is found dead, and all the shots of the courtyard seem as if they could legitimately be from Stewart’s POV, it isn’t all POV / reaction within the apartment. There’s a very nice high angle view when Stewart writes the sinister letter to Thorwald, for instance. Hitchcock restrains himself, but not THAT much.

He also moves the camera independently of Stewart’s consciousness, as at the start, when we prowl around Stewart’s room as he snoozes. This kind of overt cine-narration drops off markedly in the main body of the film, as we come closer to Stewart’s consciousness, returning at the end, when Stewart is asleep again, completing the film’s loop-like structure.

(I seem to recall that Stewart ends more films unconscious than one would expect for a leading man — he never recovers consciousness to discover his victory in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. But now I can’t think of any other examples.)

The scene where Grace boldly investigates the killer’s apartment taught me a whole new sensation of suspense. I was emotionally quite caught up with Grace’s loveliness, so I felt protective, and also the film seems to amp up the tension by using Stewart as a mirror of the audience — the helpless viewer unable to intervene.

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A little radio play — screenwriter Hayes was from radio — as Thorwald mounts the stairs to Stewart’s apartment, and Stewart listens in the dark. Something very frightening about suddenly having this man in the same room with us, instead of separated by all that comfortable space. As one of my students remarked at a screening: “Shit!” Raymond Burr does a very good job subduing his Raymond Burrness (his principle quality as an actor).

Defenestration! Having set up the suspense idea of Stewart going out the window (the way this movie uses and re-uses all the narrative elements — flashbulbs for self-defense, window as murder weapon — is extraordinary and worthy of the imitation it’s inspired) Hitchcock isn’t expected to have it actually happen. But he does. Stewart isn’t very lucky with heights in Hitchcock’s films. The cleverness of the construction is that the thing that seems to preclude a happy ending — chucking the hero from a great height — actually inspires it, leading to the fine joke of the happy man with the two plaster casts.

The plunge itself looks to me like a nifty John P Fulton (THE INVISIBLE MAN) special effect — he did the helicopter and the flashbulb retinal afterimages — but I’ve heard accounts suggesting it’s an exponential zoom with the camera shooting straight up in the air while zooming in on Stewart. Looking at it again I’m convinced it’s a matte shot, a pretty good one that works partly because it takes us by surprise. The window ledge in the foreground, which wobbles very slightly in relation to the ground below, suggests that there’s more than one optical layer here.

“I don’t want any part of it!”

Perhaps the tightness of REAR WINDOW provoked a reaction in Hitchcock, since he began preparing his next production while still shooting this one — the location-set, apparently loose and freewheeling TO CATCH A THIEF would exercise a different set of directorial muscles than those deployed to machine-tool REAR WINDOW.

Hitchcock 14 Disc Box Set – Vertigo/ The Birds/ Rear Window/ Marnie/ Frenzy/ Topaz/ The Trouble With Harry/ Torn Curtain/ Psycho/ Family Plot/ Saboteur/ Shadow Of A Doubt/ Man Who Knew Too Much/ Rope [DVD]

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51 Responses to “The Dog Who Knew Too Much”

  1. REAR WINDOW isn’t at all a morbid film. It has a lightness of tone to it and much of the action is set in bright daylight with only few scenes set during night-time. This despite the brutal cutting up, dismemberment of the woman’s corpse and putting her head in a box which Hitchcock doesn’t show but makes wonderfully vivid images in our minds by showing the objects frontally making us think about their off-screen purposes.

  2. You can really see Hitch’s sense of humour at work, telling this grim murder story but with prosperous and charming people in the foreground to make it pleasant.

  3. the great news is that due to your blogging David at the Arts & Ent quiz @ Traverse on Monday on the question on Hitch’s sound films were were able to ace that !

  4. Rear Window is beginning to edge out Vertigo as my favorite Hitchcock. This was the New York of my childhood (born 1947) and living in a chic (to little me at least) Grenwich Village flat like this would have been a dream come ture. I’d go to the theater every night and hang with Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter (whose career began only a few years before with Miracle on 34th Street. She is one of those actors for whom the cinema was invented.)

    One could rhapsodize endlessly on the relationships between the different characters in the ant colony of an apartment complex and how their travils relate to Jimmy and Grace. What’s especially fun about the film is the way she proves herself a “woman of action” to him — seriously risking her life — entirely on her own terms, as an ultra-sophisticated New York Woman who knows what’s what.

    This film should be seen in tandem with Jerry Lewis’ The Ladies Man which also had an enormous setrequiring the use of an entire sound-stage on the Paramount lot. The different rooms where the girls live — and Jerry’s einteraction with them — mirror what Hitch does with Stewart in a great many ways. The difference is Stewart can’t move and Jerry can’t NOT move.

  5. That we don’t knownhow he buried the head without being seen, what happened to the “mystery woman” (if she is indeed a mistress or something) or why he killed the wife to begin with relates to Stewart’s assumption of the omnipotence of vision. He sees so much he thinks he can see — and therefore know — everything. But this is brought to a crashing halt by Burr’s profoundly pathetic “What do you want from me?”

    Don’t underrate Wendell Corey. See Desert Fury above all.

  6. Living in an apartment complex has a special resonance to watching REAR WINDOW. The idea is that these people all live very near each other, separated by walls and windows and yet…they couldn’t be further apart.

    The relationship between Jeffries and Lisa is interesting because one sees in the end that they’ll have their differences and neither would back away when she puts away that travel book for the Harper’s Bazaar magazine. So although the murder is solved, the relationship isn’t resolved and she’s still too perfect for him…

    REAR WINDOW is many people’s favourite Hitchcock film. It’s totally perfect and precise. Not one thing that you could say ought to have been done differently or could have been better.

    What interested me about the film when I saw it first(I saw it in the same week I first saw PSYCHO, VERTIGO and N.byN-W., or as I call it the week that made me a cinephile)is the way the chaeracter describes what he sees. It’s a film set in a single room and has to do with a photographer who interprets behaviour available for display to him over a period of time yet he can only describe it in everyday observations and occurences. In isolation it sounds like gossip but taken fully it adds up to a whole picture and Jeffries is right at the end.

  7. love your description of Woolrich—I’m completely smitten with his work, have read everything in print–in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that he probably has less of a sense of humor/irony than any writer who ever lived… it’s that lack that serves him so well, I suppose–irony dispels the nightmare

    and yeah, this movie really doesn’t have anything like the feel of a Woolrich piece (if you removed my memory but let me retain my understanding of the artists’ respective aesthetics, and then asked me to guess which Hitch was based upon a ‘Rich, I’d say ”
    Vertigo” immediately)–it’s
    Hitch + Hayes all the way, with a situation suggested by Woolrich

    also–the moment in which the dog owner lambastes the courtyard actually brings tears to my eyes every time I see it… is there another moment in Hitchcock that does that? it seems really out of place in his ultra-hardboiled oeuvre… just another wonderful thing about the film, which is all about lying there and taking what the world impresses upon your senses (in this case, a director with–presumably–no tolerance for such things is subjected to doggy-wog angst)

  8. Burr had a life-size cutout of the Master’s famous profile looking out of his Hollywood office–he would encourage tour guides to point it out and say, “Over here we have Alfred Hitchcock in Raymond Burr’s rear window.”

  9. Woolrich lived a most wretched life, successful early on (an early novel, “Children of the Ritz”, was adapted to film in the late Twenties), but realizing by the early Thirties that as a writer he was better suited to pulp fiction than aspiring to The Great American Novel. What David didn’t mention was that Woolrich lost that bad leg, in 1968, removed above the knee due to gangrene and neglect. He died September of that same year. I think it’s safe to say that Woolrich was a tortured homosexual, but even more significantly he was a tortured human being. Here was a man who lived in a hotel room with his mother for years until her death in 1957, then lived reclusively alone from then on. I can imagine him at the window looking out at the world, but as someone on the outside looking in.

  10. He lived a particularly wretched life for a gay man – clearly reflected in his writing.

    Burr, by contrast, had a fine old time. Be sure to check out the premiere footage on the DVD of A Star is Born for Burr’s appearance — with an official starlet “date” and the most drop-dead gorgeous sailor you ever saw.

  11. One of things I ost love about Rear Window is the way it reflects the true sophistication of New York. Grace Kelly plays an upper-class girl — who’s rich and privileged but NOT a snob. She could ahve any man in the city, but it;s Stewart that she wants. His zest for adventure matches hers — though he doesn’t know it at first. That he should know a woman like her at all speaks of the rapid social mobility of urban life in the postwar era. In their own ways Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey fill out this picture.

    The denizens of the aprtment block aren’t poor, but they aren’t rich either. Anything could happen to any of them — which makes them a perfect subject for Hitch.

  12. Yes, Jimmy Stewart is more of a snob than Grace, which is a nice reversal. And despite being a studio creation, the film seems to capture an authentic milieu: the film seems to pulsate with New York life.

    The dog-owners attack on her neighbours seems to resonate with the popular idea of New York as an unfriendly place. The Kitty Genovese case was ten years later, but could almost inform what she’s saying. But it also works as a rebuke to Stewart personally, since he hasn’t been exactly neighbourly. Hitchcock of course was a big dog lover, which is why he treats the scene to a high angle God-shot, breaking out of Stewart’s frame for once.

    Vertigo does indeed have more of the irrationality, tormented romance and doom associated with Woolrich — and Poe. Woolrich is like a Poe who can’t write so good.

    More could be written on the film’s very rich soundtrack: my experience of tenement living is a little like that of the blind woman in Peeping Tom: “Blind people live in the rooms above them.” Apart from Stewart’s deliberate peeping, there’s all the eavesdropping he can’t help but engage in.

  13. Since we’ve come to see a thriller, we’ve come to see (or hear about) someone being killed. We can feel sorry of Mr. Thorvald — though we see she’s not the invalid she pretends to be. She probably put up a good fight. The dog on the other hand is an unprotected innocent. Consequently the test for Evil is killing a dog. This could be wildly sentimental. But by breaking out of the Stewart frame we’re forced to think about it in a more complex way. And the best part is the climaic shot of the scene — Thorvald sitting quietly by himself in the dark.

    Extra creepy!

  14. Tony Williams Says:

    Thanks for the reference, David E. I’m going to check that DVD out now and look at the footage.

    My friend Francis M. Nevins wrote the definitive biography on Woolrich, FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE, and was a law student at Columbia University when Woolrich was still alive. He was glad he never knew him since his interest began after Woolrich’s death and had he met him, he would have been turned off him according to those who knew the writer. As Mike often says, “Woolrich began as a nasty young man and became a nasty old man before he died.” However, Woolrich deep evocative prose parallels that of H.P. Lovecraft whose frequent use of the term “eldritch” often evokes the dark universe of Woolrich. However, Hayes and Hitchcock certainly did a great job of adaptation bringing IT HAD TO BE MURDER to the big screen.j

  15. Christopher Says:

    ….THis is the only time I’ve wanted to be layed up with something like a broken leg!..Just to waited on by Thelma Ritter and Grace Kelly ..to get them interested in my obsessive new passtime…I probablly can’t add to whats already been said about Kelly being the perfect girlfriend,She even proved she can handle the kind of Danger Jimmy might encounter on one of his world wide location shoots..Why can’t he do a little fashion photography on the side?…what could it hurt?..I like the way she initiates her “sleep over”,which seems risque to me for a 50s film…and I like the way the Composer on the piano across the way,has written a song about a LISA…and how you hear it again in the final shot with Kelly reading her magazine.

  16. Christopher Says:

    LOL..That ..Whats My Line…Dorothy almost always nails ‘em with her big buggy blind goggles!…THat had to have been one of the easier ones..come on!

  17. What would that “obsessive new past-time” be in your case, Christopher?

    The sleepover isn’t so very risque, since there are lots of 50s movies where characters clearly ARE having sex out of wedlock. What’s quaint to me is the way the characters apparently AREN’T having sex, and also how titillated Corey is by Grace’s presence. It all makes for some delicious comedy though.

    Hitch felt the idea of the song developing throughout the story didn’t quite work, but it does for me. Maybe Stewart shouting Lisa’s name inspires the composer…

  18. What’s risque is Grace closing the blinds on the day’s peeping, flashing her nightgown at Jimmy and saying “Preview of Coming Attractions.”

  19. My lesbian camerawoman friend remarked “There must be something wrong with him if he’s got Grace Kelly in his flat and he’s worrying about dismembered corpses.”

  20. Christopher Says:

    my obssesive passtime might not be too far from jimmys,only i would most likely be oblivious to a muder scenario going while in the process of ..passing time..
    The “Grace Kelly Sleepover”just hit me as being very bold the last time I saw this..I dunno..maybe its the way she plays it as being a natrual..modern ,thing for a lady to do ..not some 50’s Marylin monroe comedy situation..or a Romp..or a Rape….altho she does seem determined to get laid,broken leg or not!

  21. Grace Kelly was Notorious! She had quite an off-screen rep, you know. An old Hollywood hand, producer Hank Moonjean once told me “She wasn’t a snob at all. She’d sleep with grip.”

  22. Christopher Says:

    I’m not so sure that jimmy’s final condition at the end of Rear Window,is not the result of a night with queen kelly..

  23. Richard Lester went on a double-date with a friend as a young man, and was quite pleased with himself that he managed to snag the prettier girl, instead of getting lumbered with her gawky sister. The sister was Grace Kelly. He was doubly in error because if he had picked her he would totally have gotten laid.

  24. Turn Joan Blondell up to ’11’ and double the sass: then you’ve got Thelma Ritter, perhaps my favourite character actress of all time. She’s amazing in Pickup on South Street, and never less than scene-stealingly wonderful.

  25. The Mating Season deserves a better rep. It’s minor late Leisen, but pretty enjoyable, and Ritter is its heart and soul (just as well since John Lund is nominal lead). And her opposite number in the story is Miriam Hopkins. You also get Gene Tierney for your money but the old dames are the whole show. Ritter’s line about quarreling with her mom: “I hit her…with a banana,” is so priceless because her line reading clearly implies that using a piece of fruit makes it WORSE.

  26. I wonder if Stewart’s wheelchair-bound character represents someone whose active engagement with the world is severely limited by his solipistic and voyeuristic relationship with reality, due in large part to his emotional suppression.

  27. Arthur S. Says:

    ————
    I wonder if Stewart’s wheelchair-bound character represents someone whose active engagement with the world is severely limited by his solipistic and voyeuristic relationship with reality………
    ————

    The photographs in the opening scene show the reverse. He’s taken photographs of landscapes, of conflict and of car accidents. He’s engaged to reality well enough. Just his kind of reality. He can understand why someone would want to kill his nagging wife because to him marriage means conformity. That’s why he suspects Thorwald and investigates him through his rear window. The thing is that he can’t totally gauge the consequences of his actions and being a photojournalist, he’s trained to observe from a distance and feel unimplicated. This changes because he gets a first fracture from the car accident he took a photograph of and another one at the end of this film.

  28. Of course his voyeuristic side relates him to Hitchcock, and his fear of close-up connection seems quite Hitchcockian, but it manifests itself quite differently: Hitch wasn’t afraid of marriage, but Stewart’s he-man lifestyle, and “eating things you couldn’t even look at when they were alive” wouldn’t have appealed at all.

    You could double-feature the movie with Blow Up quite nicely, since they’re nearly opposites. Stewart’s photographer is able to largely reconstruct real events without having seen them, whereas even what Hemmings sees is kind of cast into doubt in the Antonioni.

  29. Arthur S. Says:

    REAR WINDOW relates even more to Haneke’s CACHE. Only there it’s DV that’s the medium(and it’s shot wonderfully in DV) and the antagonist creeps himself into the protagonist’s world. Or rather it’s as Thelma Ritter says, “outside looking in”.

    The major difference between BLOW-UP and REAR WINDOW is that David Hemmings is the kind of photographer L. B. Jeffries does not want to be. Jeffries resents the upper-crust world of Lisa and doesn’t want to work as a fashion photographer seeing what he does as being exciting and adventurous. Whereas David Hemmings is shaken after a single visit to a factory. What they have in common is that they both get themselves involved in a mystery for obscure reasons. The murder story gets him excited in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood that he often keeps himself away from during his travels and it brings him and Lisa closer. Whereas David Hemmings is as stranded before as he is after.

  30. Plus sex is available in Blow-Up in quite different ways than Rear Window. Vanessa strips for Hemmings and he gets it on with Jane Birkin and Gillian whatshername. The crime, however, isn’t of the same emotional tenor at all.

  31. Arthur S. Says:

    And of course the legendary photo shoot at the beginning. Where shooting Veruschka(if I am not mistaken) is shown with greater eroticism than the threesome scene. Though it’s a very stylized almost satirical kind of eroticism. Blow-Up as such isn’t about voyeurism which is the conceit of REAR WINDOW, about the power and responsibility of seeing and being watched. Blow-Up is really about an artist’s constant need for validation and identity which he searches for in his work, in his possessions and in sex and can’t get any satisfaction whatsoever in the end.

    Hitchcock loved BLOW-UP immensely saying Antonioni was a decade ahead of him. And they say he was arrogant!!! I think Hitchcock was giving himself too little credit because REAR WINDOW in certain aspects feels more modern than BLOW-UP which despite being a masterpiece is more obviously tied to it’s period while REAR WINDOW is timeless. It says a lot about New York in the 50s but it isn’t tied to the period flavour at all. The New York details didn’t occur to me when I first saw it and a lot of the references went over my head(like the references to Leland Hayward and his wife, Howard Hawks’ ex and Truman Capote’s mortal enemy, Slim) but the film worked terrifically.

    Did Antonioni explicitly cite BLOWUP?

  32. Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope-Frenzy, going by the test footage and stills, seems very inspired by Antonioni. And when Wasserman prevented him from making it he backtracked into mainly more conventional work.

    Agree that Blow Up, by trying to capture a specific mood of the time, dates far more than Rear Window, though this isn’t a weakness, just a facet of the movie. Maybe the attitudes to women date more, since the film doesn’t seem to question them, at least on the surface. Whereas there’s a lively debate about sexual roles going on all through Rear Window, involving even the most minor characters. Everything Stewart sees has a bearing on his dilemma re Grace.

    Perhaps Cache connects via Lynch — it borrows the VT conceit from Lost Highway — whose hero apparently commits a Thorwald-style wife dismemberment — and Blue Velvet is a very specifically indebted to Rear Window. I always felt Jeffrey Beaumont was a near-anagram of LB Jeffries.

  33. Arthur, do you mean did Antonioni say Rear Window was an influence? I don’t know that he did. It could be coincidence or subconscious influence. But the films contrast in a few interesting ways.

  34. Arthur S. Says:

    Antonioni and Hitchcock are often compared that I wondered if Antonioni talked about it in interviews. On the DVD of CRONACA DI UN AMORE, the DP said that he and Antonioni looked at a lot of films noir for influences and one of them was SHADOW OF A DOUBT which Antonioni liked.

    Then in ZABRISKIE POINT, the hero showboats to the heroine by making divebombs to her car on his plane and you can’t help but think of NORTH BY NORTHWEST. And of course THE PASSENGER is in many ways, many different ways, a art-house re-examination of the patterns of N. by N-W.

  35. Arthur S. Says:

    Haneke says that PSYCHO is one of his all-time favourite films. CACHE is about surveillance and voyeurism and has as much to say about the ambivalence and ambiguity of that world as Hitchcock does or Coppola does in THE CONVERSATION(which is influenced by BLOW-UP though shifts the medium from images to sound, radically altering the mise-en-scene of the film and homages PSYCHO in the blood pool scene at the end).

    What makes CACHE perverse is that some of the videos suggest that the figures are aware they are being watched and so are “acting” especially in the final video which seems meant for performance and exhibition and distribution. It’s quite twisted but it’s also honest about 21st Century digital culture.

  36. Cache continues what Antonioni discovers in Blow-Up — that’ we can’t always trust images to disclose truth. In Haneke this begins right away as we discover that what we’re looking at isn’t an ordinary shot, but a video image.

    (His latest The White Ribbon is a masterpiece, BTW.)

  37. david wingrove Says:

    Everything of interest in CACHE strikes me as having been stolen from David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY (a genuinely surreal and disturbing masterpiece). The rest of it just sems like the ghastly Haneke being his usual dreary, dour, taste-free. talent-free self.

    Have I ever seen a film where the leading actress is so badly styled and costumed? Poor Juliette Binoche is forced to wear clothes that emphasise all her least attractive features – treatment that is both cruel and grossly unprofessional. In a word, YUCK!

  38. The only Haneke film I liked was La pianiste.

  39. Oh, I’ve got NO intention of watching that! Saw a few minutes. It’s actually going to take quite a lot make me watch another Haneke, though I’m aware I may be missing out.

  40. Haneke sure ain’t a barrel of laughs.

  41. “The dog on the other hand is an unprotected innocent. Consequently the test for Evil is killing a dog.”

    A similar dog murder resonates most for me in the original version of Insomnia (a detail that is deftly avoided in the remake, resulting in a much ‘safer’ film)!

    I think Rear Window would have to be my favourite Hitchcock, or maybe sharing the top spot with Psycho. I love the voyeurism and as David E. says the seeming omnipotence of the viewer being overturned by all the details Stewart misses or the eternal mystery of trying to work out a person’s psychology by isolated glimpses of disjointed (but suspicion arousing!) actions.

    I’ve just picked up that Hitchcock set myself recently and experienced the restored version for the first time. I loved the kiss moment as an isolated moment but wasn’t sure if it didn’t disrupt the flow of the film by giving Kelly not just a big entrance but a ‘big flashing sign, slow motion, waving wildly pointing out that something special is happening’ entrance. It has been a while since I watched the older version but I seem to remember feeling it was relatively more low key originally, which if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me I’d prefer since it would let Lisa be discovered by the audience over the course of the film for all her qualities, not just her beauty. The slow motion kiss presents the dream woman right at the start, both for Stewart and us.

    The other thing was the action of Stewart hanging out of the window. Was the action speeded up at all in this restored version or is this just a case of my mind playing tricks on me? Either way on this viewing I felt slightly underwhelmed by the Keystone Kops comic fast motion at what should be the incredible tense climax.

    The two moments above don’t destroy the magic of the film for me however – its still perfect in so many other ways! And it has my favourite Hitchcock cameo, winding up a clock with a sly look over his shoulder just before the murder mystery starts with a scream.

  42. I’m biased as I love all of Haneke’s cold and clinical films. I think Code Unknown is almost a perfect film, including all the themes of past and future films within it. That’s the one I’d recommend to a newcomer.

    I also loved The Piano Teacher (what a performance from Huppert), and Time of the Wolf is also fascinating – Huppert disappears into the background in that film when the emphasis turns to the tenuous community at the waystation waiting for some sign of civilisation to arrive, and how the children react to that. Strangely when Frank Darabont made that version of Stephen King’s The Mist I felt that Time of the Wolf had already covered the same material just without the monsters (even strangely it also keeps eerily closer to the original ending of the King story, with the message left behind as the travellers move on to an uncertain future)

  43. Interesting to see Arthur S saying that seeing Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and N.byN-W. in the space of one week made him a cinephile, as I have a very clear memory of sitting in my bedroom some time in the 80s after seeing Rear Window on television the day after I saw Do The Right Thing on video and thinking, “Wow, films are amazing!” That was when I started scanning the late night BBC2 and Channel 4 listings and, of course, confirmed my wow thought.

    Rear Window still has a special place in my heart because of that. And because it is as near perfect as we have any right to expect something to be.

  44. The kiss and the accelerated motion were always there, Colin. I remember being struck by the kiss and slightly disappointed by the speeding up when I saw the film in the 80s. All the restoration did was improve the colour enormously, and restore the End title which was inexplicably left off the VHS release.

    It’s definitely a film that speaks to the love of movies. I think seeing it as a teen was a key moment for me too, it certainly was a very intense experience, and I finally realised that I was more obsessed than is normal. For quite a few years the film I dreamed of making was Hitchcockian.

    For some reason, Hitchcock’s cameo in this one didn’t please me so much, maybe because he’s very noticeable, and because his presence in the composer’s apartment seems to demand some explanation. He’s actually a character in this. In Shadow of a Doubt somebody even speaks to him, but he’s much easier to miss in that, sitting with his back to us. But looking at it now I can’t see why I would have a problem with that.

  45. david wingrove Says:

    Amazed that somebody likes LA PIANISTE! That utterly revolting film put me off sex for at least 2 weeks – not an easy thing to do.

  46. I shudder to think what it did to La Huppert’s love life. But clearly that film has a lot of fans. Seems kind of masochistic to me, but there are all kinds of movie pleasure, some of which I’ll never understand.

  47. david wingrove Says:

    Was la Huppert’s love life ever up to much? She has that faintly withered look that suggests it wasn’t…but it’s always the ones you’d never suspect.

  48. The fact that she started in a Bertrand Blier film as a teen suggests a certain precocity, but I’m not actually “in the know.”

  49. David Wingrove, lay off Isabelle Huppert!

  50. david wingrove Says:

    I have no desire to lay ON Isabelle Huppert, if that’s what you mean.

    Sorry…I just couldn’t resist.

  51. […] better-known movies too — PHANTOM LADY, THE LEOPARD MAN, but probably not REAR WINDOW, which I wrote about back in Hitchcock […]

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