Monday, February 16, 2009

Rope (1948; Alfred Hitchcock)

Most of my movies that I review tend to be relatively new. Can you blame me? These movies are from my generation, are easier to research, and are easier to obtain. However, as a self proclaimed "film addict" I must always take some time to go back and obtain the classics. While most of them have been put on Criterion, and are therefore ludicrously expensive, some maintain normal (cheap) releases. Those are the ones for me.

Two intellectual socialites have embraced an idea that certain individuals at such a sophisticated level such as themselves have the right and responsibility to kill lesser individuals. To prove to themselves just how cunning they are, they decide to not only kill one of these lesser humans, they decide to hide the body in a chest in the middle of their living room. It also just so happens they are hosting a party for the man they murdered in that very room.

I have always maintained that Rope is Hitchcock's strongest film (followed closely by other well knowns such as Rear Window and Vertigo). The actors in this film pull off their respective roles perfectly, my favorite performance being Brandon (John Dall) who is a charismatic and manipulative som' bitch (and who is also a murderer).

I will be honest, some of my enjoyment of this film comes from the knowledge of how it was made. Hitchcock wanted to try and shoot a film in as few shots as possible. He was, however, limited to the length of the modern film reels, which led to the film ending at around ten rolls, with some of the cuts hidden by zooming into objects and zooming out at the start of the next roll.

That being said, this led to the camera being mostly restrained to sweeps and zooms, but it worked almost perfectly within the small confines of the film (a single room and a hall).

Which brings me to another thing I have noticed. There is something about confined films that makes me feel that it can show so much more about the director's skills when they can craft an interesting and gripping film only utilizing one or two set pieces (see 12 Angry Men). I also enjoy when directors can successfully juggle a large cast of major characters, but that is for later reviews (see my top two favorite films).

Where does this film go wrong? I felt the continual use of dialogue that was suppose to be cleverly playing around with the murder (stories of strangling chickens, the use of the word dead) was a bit over used and became so obvious at points it distracted you from the atmosphere of the film and pulled you back into reality for just a split second. While small, it still has an impact on the final vision of the film that prevents it from achieving the coveted perfect score.

Score: 4.5/5

Notes: James Stewart is a Sexy Man

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