Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock's greatest movie (1954). James Stewart plays a news photographer trapped in his Greenwich Village flat by a broken leg. Out of boredom he starts following the stories of his neighbors across the courtyard, all of which represent variations on the romantic issues of his own relationship with a former model (Grace Kelly) who's trying to goad him into marriage. When he deduces that one of his neighbors (Raymond Burr) may have murdered his invalid wife, he moves into high gear as an amateur sleuth. Reader critic Dave Kehr called this "the most densely allegorical of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces, moving from psychology to morality to formal concerns and finally to the theological. It is also Hitchcock's most innovative film in terms of narrative technique, discarding a linear story line in favor of thematically related incidents, linked only by the powerful sense of real time created by the lighting effects and the revolutionary ambient soundtrack." With Wendell Corey and Thelma Ritter at her very best.
Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movie, Rear Window, is as fresh as it was when it came out, in part, paradoxically, because of how profoundly it belongs to its own period. It’s set in Greenwich Village during a sweltering summer of open windows, and it reeks of 1954…Two of the most poetic evocations of Greenwich Village to be found in movies, those in The Seventh Victim (1943, see below) and Rear Window, were shot in Hollywood studios, and both are models of cozy proximity and narrative economy, featuring lairlike garrets and densely populated neighborhoods filled with mysterious artists of various sorts…Rear Window has often been described as Hitchcock’s testament because it sums up so many of his ideas about filmmaking: his fascination with voyeurism, his love of technical restrictions ..More than anything, Rear Window, without ever ceasing to be a grand entertainment, is a moral investigation into what we do and what that implies whenever we follow a murder plot as armchair analysts. Hitchcock explores the question from just about every possible angle, including the issue of whether we ogle our neighbors the way we ogle characters in plays and movies — from a dark place and a safe distance. The movie begins and ends with a theatrical metaphor — the raising and lowering of the window shades in Jeff’s flat as if they were stage curtains, a symmetry that was brutally violated in Universal’s previous rerelease version, which ends instead with the Universal logo..[Jonathan Rosenbaum]