Sunday, June 28, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: "Rear Window"...and more

I saw the 1954 movie "Rear Window" last night on Turner Classic Movies. A man, Jimmy Stewart, a photographer, stuck in a single room after an accident, confined to a wheelchair, watches the world go by in an inner-city, inner courtyard apartment complex: 'voyeurism' taken to aesthetic, dramatic delight. He soon thinks he witnesses a murder (a man who has carved up his wife...or did he or didn't he) , and the director, Alfrad Htchcock ratches up the tension, mystery and scariness from there.

There is comic relief (the great Thelma Ritter as a visiting nurse), and a love interest, Grace Kelly. (Was there any movie actress more classically Nordic beautiful than her? I was enamoured of her as a boy. In this regard the man has not changed.) But Jimmy Stewart remains the heart and soul of the drama.

As I was wathching the film (often staged in its one room as if it were seeing a play on a wonderful stage set), I kept thinking: can a modern audience (meaning youth) sit still long enough to enjoy it? Can narrative alone...solving the puzzle of the plot...fixate a modern audience for two hours? For that matter, do we even believe in the possibility of plot-solutions anymore? Are today's MTV rhythms absolutely required (constand camera movement, changed angles and rapid editing cuts) to keep the audience interested in a world where it is now believed nothing can be solved, only experienced?

Is the singular focus on a character's 'within-the-frame' actions and feelings enough to sustain a viewer's interest in a world that abjures logic, free-will and humanity's grasp of its own (much less a character's) destiny? Or must we be constantly filmically 'done-upon' in a deterministic world of fate and events overwhelming the possibiity (and therefore interest in) human control? Can pure narrative unfolding, and the actor's positive and possible involvement in any plot solution, become sufficiently involving for a modern audience? Or has ADD (attention deficit disorder) so permeated the society, that audience's interest automatically flaggs if image-stimuli (constantly cutting from one 'frame' of film to another) does not occur with rapidity?

I avoid the answer; I fear it is true.


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