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The British touch in American cinema,
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This review is from: Rear Window [DVD]  (DVD)
This film has become a cult film with time. Everything seems to be at that level though the situation and plot are rather light. What is important here is that Hitchcock transforms this back yard and garden surrounded by buildings all around and a highly voyeuristic microcosm into a complete vision of human society with all its dramas, and its pleasures and joys. To transform such a small microcosm entirely closed onto itself into a vision of the whole society we hardly get a couple of glimpses of through an alley opening onto the main street is marvelous and amazing. The second phenomenal fact is that the main actor is a wheelchair-ridden man with a severely broken leg in a cast. How can the whole world completely turn and whirl around that sole man? It is only possible because it is absolutely seen through the only eyes of this man or the eyes of the people standing next to him. There is only one instance when the point of vision is not his own eyes but a point outside in the yard-garden: at the end when he is being dropped from his window and then we get for a very short period of time the vision from the cops' eyes. This gives to that film such a personal dimension that it is nearly sickening: we have the impression of invading the privacy of that man. In fact what I have just said is false because he alternates what the man can see and close-up shots on him to show his personal reactions to what he has just seen. This constant alternating of voyeuristic sequences from the eyes of one man and close-up shots on his body language and language forces us into his own skin, body, bones. We are no longer voyeurs but ghosts in him seeing through his eyes. We are the direct witnesses of what he sees because we see it with him, through his own eyes and we start feeling the same emotions as he does. Of course everything is seen through the camera, but Hitchcock even uses some tools to emphasize the voyeuristic dimension and force us into it: a camera with a zooming lens that is so big that the camera becomes minuscule, or binoculars that are of course too big for the distance across the back yard and later the flash bulbs to force us not to see through the eyes of the murderer but to be seen through the eyes of the murderer. The last point I would like to insist on is that Hitchcock shows a murder but he is not interested in the murder per se but in the reactions of the witnesses, those who see everything and how they are blind to what they see. Then he builds up the slow recognition in their eyes, language and behavior, and then they become obsessive about it, to the point of becoming if not courageous at least unconscious of the risks they are taking or running. That too is remarkable and that nearly makes us get out of the simplistic voyeurism I have spoken of all along and climb into some kind of distantiation from the penned up impression of before, a distantiation that leads us to the idea that courage in a human society is often the result of a conviction that makes us blind to the danger or risk we are facing. Courage is the result of a lack of consciousness more than intensified consciousness. This is the human dimension Hitchcock always brought to his films. And that is kind of lost in our modern action films that do not have one single second now and then to just rest and digest what has happened before.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines