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Rope – Review

18 Jan

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the game changers of film. With each movie he makes, there seems to be something exciting brought to the table that seems so ahead of its time. In Vertigo, camera techniques bent our minds as much as the story. In Psycho, Hitchcock seemed to break all the rules that were maintained concerning what’s decent. With Rope, an interesting way of constructing a movie was seen through the long take. This wasn’t the first time it was seen, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.

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Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) think they have gotten away with the perfect murder. They have strangled a friend of theirs, David Kentley (Dick Hogan), and hid him a chest in their living room. In order to prove their genius, they hold a party that same night, with the guests including two old friends, their old school house master Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), and David’s father (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and aunt (Constance Collier). With the night going exactly as planned, they are surprised when Cadell begins suspecting the two are up to no good.

I was very impressed with this movie. For the entire hour and twenty minutes that the movie is on, there only seems to be a few cuts. There are actually more than that, but they are hidden using tricky camera effects to make it seem like the entire movie is happening in real time and the action continuous. This is a style that I really enjoy, with modern film makers like Alfonso Cuarón keeping it alive. A lot of the set was actually kept on wheels and tracks so that it could be silently moved around so as to not disturb the continuity of the camera.

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The performances in this movie are good, but really nothing to write home about compared to other Hitchcock films. James Stewart is the actor that really holds all of the scenes that he’s in higher than the rest, and when he first makes his entrance it is memorable and says a lot about his character. So while the actual line delivery isn’t always that impressive, the sheer amount of lines to be said in one take is a huge credit to the actors. Pages and pages of dialogue are used for one take, which must have been very difficult to do. The whole thing is very theatrical, which is appropriate since Rope is based off of a stage play.

After Hitchcock filmed Ropehe said he merely made it as an experiment. In that sense, would this be considered an experimental film? In some ways, yes, but it doesn’t always feel like one. There are times where I really do notice the technique, and it gets kind of distracting. James Stewart wasn’t a huge fan of this film, stating he felt that he was miscasted.

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While Rope is certainly not Hitchcock’s best work, I will say that it is under rated. The techniques implemented along with the skill of the actor’s are definitely noteworthy. It’s slow and often tedious, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing Rope, especially if you’re a fan of Hitchcock and his suspenseful style.

Vertigo – Review

24 Aug

Alfred Hitchcock was never a director to shy away from controversial themes. In fact he seemed to be obsessed with controversy, which is clearly present in what many people call his masterpiece, Vertigo. Filled with haunting color design, intriguing set pieces, and memorable finger biting scenes, The Master of Suspense shows once again why he was given that title.

 

After a rooftop chase that ends in the death of an officer, John Ferguson (James Stewart) realizes his gripping acrophobia (fear of heights) which causes vertigo (dizziness and loss of balance). He decides to quit the force, but is roped back into another investigation by a friend from college who needs him to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), and report her suspicious activities. John soon begins to fall in love with her, and after a tragic event, this love turns into a deep rooted obsession.

Psycho featured graphic murder and Rear Window was a story about a peeping tom, both of which were new and controversial at the time. The themes of Vertigo make these last two films seem like child’s play. What is examined here is a strange necrophilic, psycho-sexual obsession that would make Stanley Kubrick as giddy as a school girl. This theme is never shoved down the viewer’s throat, however, and it is left up to them to decide how far they want to take the theme.

 

As a person who loves camera tricks, this movie is a treasure. There is a fantastic trick that is still used today. Remember that scene in Jaws when the little boy is attacked at the beach and the camera zooms in on Roy Schneider, while the background gets all distorted? You can thank Vertigo for that shot. This is now called a vertigo shot or a dolly zoom, but I prefer calling it a vertigo shot. This is done by having the camera on a dolly track out, while simultaneously zooming in. This was used to show John’s “vertigo.”

Here’s an example:

Another brilliant aspect of this movie is the lighting design. Lighting is not easy, especially when it is heavily stylized and must succeed at creating some type of surreal mood. One of the most famous scenes of Vertigo has Kim Novak stepping out of this eerie neon green light after making a strange transformation in order to please John. It’s haunting and memorable.

James Stewart steals the show with his almost trademarked nervous energy. His performance is totally genuine and I firmly believe that he was ahead of his time.  Kim Novak’s performance is pretty weak compared to his and she sometimes over acts her pretty little head off. Barbara Bel Geddes offers some great scenes, however, as Ferguson’s best friend.

 

While many people do say this is Hitchcock’s masterpiece, I’m still sticking with Rear Window as my favorite Hitchcock movie. Vertigo is still a classic that is filled with fantastic performances, groundbreaking visual design, and themes that are still shocking today. This is a movie that should be required viewing.