Monday, September 17, 2012

Rear Window / North by Northwest -
Alfred Hitchcock (1954/1959)

Well, this is a disaster...  Not only did we have to split the Saturday double-feature between two days again, but Blogspot has just now changed up their blogging tools.  Until I can get the hang of the new format (or re-access the old one), everything will take a little longer.  Or the posts will be a little shorter.

Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) won the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, but this time is for a couple of other classic-era classics.

Rear Window
dir. Alfred Hitchcock.  1954, USA.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #53 / Directors' #48
Roger Ebert's Great Movies
DVD from Amazon [or get both on this set]
Watch via Amazon Instant / iTunes

Rear Window trailer (1954)

Stella: Intelligence! Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.

Rather than exploring the unknown, I slipped into a bit more of the comfort zone. Rear Window is probably my usual go-to for "best Hitchcock," but I don’t pretend to be an expert. It's been awhile... while I remember Jeff being grouchy within his situation, I had forgotten how much a jerk he was to Princess Grace. C'mon, Jimmy, this isn't like you! But the movie firmly establishes his wanderlust and total frustration with being confined - to a wheelchair, in his apartment, within a relationship.

I always get the feeling how difficult the whole production must have been to pull off, constrained to one interior and one vantage point to the exterior tenement complex and courtyard (the titular window). And I always come away impressed with how well we know who is who and where and why. The movie's had such a huge influence and been borrowed from so often that it can be difficult to put it back into the 1954 context, but definitely an all-timer.

North by Northwest
dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1959, USA.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #53 / Directors' #107
New York Times movie review
50th anniv. DVD from Amazon [Blu-Ray]
Watch via Amazon Instant / iTunes / YouTube

North by Northwest trailer (1959)

Roger O. Thornhill: In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only expedient exaggeration.

North by Northwest goes in the opposite direction, taking us on a cross-country romp from New York City to South Dakota. Cary Grant's wry banter, Eva Marie Saint's ambiguous motives, James Mason suaving it up, and an ice-cold Martin Landau. The whole United Nations part works great, and ends up with the endlessly comical front-page photo being snapped. There seems be some kind of symmetry with the cafeteria killing towards the end. Maybe.

The action sequences are good for the time, but the dialogue holds up best after 50+ years. A lot of funny stuff throughout - the flirtatious sparring in the dining car, Thornhill's indignation at being a target for murder, the auction house escape, the concluding shot in the film. Sometimes underrated, but not so much by the Sight & Sound poll.

Both movies were in Technicolor, and NXNW was filmed in glorious VistaVision. The latter Blu-ray looks fantastic, and I'm thinking about grabbing some of the new ones (including 2 Criterions) although there have been some steamy typographical complaints.

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