Look back in delight

A newly polished Rear Window remains a joy to peer though

Rear Window was nearly perfect when it was released, and it still is. A very few minor elements have dated: Modern audiences chuckle when a huge deal is made over whether Lisa is spending the night, as though it would be scandalous in 1954 for two sophisticated New York adults to sleep together without the benefit of wedlock. On some level, though, that social anachronism works in the movie's favor: Hitchcock was a master at cranking up eroticism through discretion. And there are few moments in the history of film as romantic or as sheerly sexy as Stewart and Kelly's first kiss.

The possible thematic readings of Rear Window are no less complex or resonant than those of Vertigo: Jeff is akin to a film viewer who finally sees the security of his one-way perspective collapse as the creature on the screen comes lumbering down into the auditorium to get him. Jeff, terrified of emotional entanglements, is using his involvement with the courtyard denizens as an excuse to ignore the very real, willing, and infinitely more alluring Lisa. And Jeff is morally reprehensible, even if Thorwald is guilty. But most broadly, Rear Window is a metaphor for how we all assemble our worldviews from fragments of perception that are often (if not always) unclear and decontextualized. There are lots of other ways of looking at Rear Window -- all of which you can ignore if you want, because there is no other movie currently playing in theaters that is more satisfying simply as a romp. It has the thematic content of a Bergman film (profound and richly ambiguous) perfectly integrated with the light, luminous surface of Lubitsch (funny, sexy, scary, and exciting). What more do you want?

Is that a lens on your camera, Jimmy, or are you just happy to see her?
Is that a lens on your camera, Jimmy, or are you just happy to see her?


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

Restoration supervised by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz

Release Date:
February 25

Official site

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by John Michael Hayes; based on the story "It Had to Be Murder" by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich)

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