Professional photographer, J.B.Jeffries, is confined to his Greenwich Village apartment after breaking his leg. He looks in on the intimate dramas at play in his neighbors apartments. Eventually, he becomes convinced that a salesman murdered his nagging wife.
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I remember how much I enjoyed it the first time I saw it. I saw it in the movie theatre, and I remember trying to crawl out of my seat because of how well the tension was built. Jimmy Stewart plays a bit of a perv. He's peeking into windows with binoculars and a telephoto lens. He has the incredible Grace Kelly, but he'd rather be the voyeur.
A magnificently controlled exercise in tension through immobilisation, spatial distancing and silence. It's a situation that occurs to me in many city hotels with a canvas of assumed stories behind the windows opposite. Add to this a stranded hero and the most delicate beauty you could not wish harm upon and it's a superb example of 'what would I do in that situation?'. If only more commercial cinema were as good.
A simple idea elegantly constructed. The tension, the silences, the antecipation, the editing, in this film is a lesson that most thrillers did not learn. Wrtting about this film, I realize why I usually dislike thrillers and their annoying storytelling. Usually they tell us where to be stressed, when to relax in such obvious ways, that it is condescending, and it doesn't work. Here, we're transported into the story.
Hitchcock's most accessible American classic may also still be his most complex. The act of peeping in this neighborhood is like flipping through channels. All these stories reek of banal television but are made memorable by Stewart's remarks (Much like The 39 Steps, Hitchcock's use of comedy elevates the material). How good is this film. It's so good that even the idiots on IMDB love it. It's undeniable greatness.
The larger conversation about cinema and filmmaking is fascinating, especially as Jimmy Stewart's character acts as a voyeur through his window to the world (silver screen), enhanced and singular by way of the camera.
Hitchcock manages to craft an imaginative and tightly wound suspense piece that masquerades as a simple story of intrigue while commenting on politics and privacy in 50's America. Grace Kelly is both divine and perfectly realised. The camera work is superb and this blu-ray remaster is highly recommended. 4 stars
Hitchcock's fascinating trek into voyeurism and surveillance is easily one of his greatest.
I consider James Stewart's character to be a milder version of the obsessive detective he would play 4 years later, in Vertigo.