Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #14: Here Lie the Broken Bones of L.B. Jefferies (Opening Scene of Rear Window)

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Today's Daily Dose is the opening scene from 1954's classic REAR WINDOW.

 

Watch the clip over at the Canvas course, and then come over to the TCM message board and record your reflections, read other people's observations, and share your thoughts about this film's amazing opening scene.

 

Here are 3 questions (with a bonus question for today!) to get you started:
 

  1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?
  2. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?
  3. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?
  4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

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1. The credit sequence definitely positions us in a vantage point similar to Stewart's character, peering out in the neighborhood. And Waxman's music indicates a playful glee as the shadow blinds go up one by one. That's followed up by a forward tracking shot that seems like the pov of someone bending down to roll forward in a wheelchair and then leaning/peeping out by the window. I believe the vantage point in the next  shot scanning through the neighborhood, while you could speculate it's Jeff (and that the camera comes back onto him once he's turned back around), is that it's viewer him/herself being positioned into a neighborhood watcher role from this apartment, peeping out into others lives and scanning what's going on. But by focusing on Jeff in close-up and returning to him and then scanning through his apartment, it's established that Jeff is the anchor and most important figure in the movie in terms of POV. In particular, the cut from Stewart's sweaty face over to the thermostat with the heat and then darting to different neighbors within his eyesight helps convey the movie is oriented around his experience.

2. I love this type of visual storytelling. It's so much better than clunky exposition. The smashed cameras, the images of racing car crashes on a track and calamity, and the same magazines stacked provides the backstory of Jeff's job and presumably how he ended up with a broken leg in a cast.

3. I'd lean more toward spectator than voyeur at this stage of the movie. The overall impression is more one of looking out and scanning through different things of interest and getting a sense of the landscape, rather than really focusing on certain subject in that landscape (with the possible exception of the half naked blonde, but the camera doesn't linger that long on her before moving away, although it clearly stops when she's the most visible and active person in the frame, and then in the next scene we'll get editing to signal Jeff is looking out again as she's bending over again...which you could say foreshadows the voyeur/creeper part to this story beyond just how he's a snoop)

4. To me, not in the sense of "pure cinema," because my sense of what Hitchcock means by the term is that just watching on silent, with maybe some score, you'd understand almost all the story and character dynamics. I don't think that's the case because of how the dialogue actually is quite strong for developing that Grace Kelly and James Stewart relationship and how the plot keeps moving. But I do think it's the most cinematic in the sense of a voyeur/peeping tom and constantly being positioned in the action. It seems strange to me that Hitchcock pulled this movie from circulation if he truly thought it was his most cinematic, unless he had personal issues with it or later issues with the stars.  (sidebar: I might have to compare watching Raiders of the Lost Ark the B&W version Soderbergh put out to this movie on silent to see if my intial assessment, here, holds up.)

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DAILY DOSE #14 (Rear Window).

 

THE LADY'S DANISHES:

 

1. This shot establishes the audience's omniscient POV (or a director's who's proud of his slice-of-city-life set).

2. Jeff is a professional photographer with a dark sense of humor (based on the framed negative).

3. This scene evokes the feeling of wanting to buy binoculars.

4. Yes, this isn't Hitchcock's best film but I've seen it more times than any other.

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This scene from Rear Window, brings us in as voyeurs also, more than just a passive audience.  The scene pans out from the room to the apartments across the court yard and then down, we see a cat going up the stairs, then a couple finishing dressing, as the camera pans back to the left, birds fly down diagonally from left to right.  A shot of a bathroom with a woman combing her hair.  Then back back into Jeff's room where he is lying, eyes closed, back to the rear window, face all sweaty.

 

This is not Jeff looking, this is us, we are now participants along with Jeff, no longer being just a passive audience, we are active in the voyeurism.  Quickly we go back out passing the thermometer showing 94 degrees.  We can see the musician, shaving, moving to fiddle with the dial of his radio.  The couple sleeping on the fire escape, their alarm going off and waking.  Then Miss Torso, comes out of the bathroom half dressed doing a bend to pickup and put on her bra, turning to us and doing leg scissors, with a number of birds congregated on her roof.  

 

As the camera pans left again we can see  a small street scene through the narrow alley the milkman is going through.  Then to the woman putting her pet bird outside and taking the cover off the cage.  Finally, pulling back into Jeff's room, Still sleeping, sweating in the heat, down to leg in a cast signed "Here lie the bones of L. B. Jefferies".  Then a pan over to broken, smashed camera, and possible the shot that got him hurt and camera destroyed, of a race car crash head on in front of the photographer, then panning over more pictures that show the dangerous work that Jeff does.  Finally a negative of a model, that ended up on a magazine cover with caption "Paris Fashions".  We know knew the work Jeff does, why he is in the cast, and a foreshadow of how he met Grace Kelley.  

 

All the elements are there though for us to want to get back to looking out the rear window.  What might we miss.  That is where action will be taking place, stairs, cat, birds tell us that.  

 

1954 in technicolor films the "color consultant" is still listed.  To make a technicolor film had to rent equipment and hire a color consultant.  They made the decision of what colors went or did not go in a scene.  Herbert Kalmus invented it, and kept close control of it, and it gave his ex-wife and partner a job, and she could make things difficult for directors with her demands on color schemes.  By 1954 she is no longer involved and on this film Richard Muller did that role.

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How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

 

Hitchcock seems to be setting the scene: first a cursory glance over the courtyard showing us the layout and then making clear that this the view out of the window of our protagonist. Next shot shows the heat and gives some closer shots of some of the neighbors, whose antics arouse our curiosity and even titillate us (shaving oneself in the sitting room, sleeping on the balcony, miss torso scarcely dressed and bending over, the leg stretching): we want to see/know more...

Even though Jeff's back is to the window, clearly this vantage point is from his point of view and, since he is the hero (we get more details about him: incapacitated with broken leg, professional photographer (action, danger, glamour) with whom we will sympathize/identify, also the audiences vantage point.

 

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

He is a professional photographer of action (broken camera and pictures on the wall of accidents and explosions) and glamour (cover of magazine shows the glamour and the presence of negative of the cover photo indicates Jeff shot it). Being a man of action now confined to a chair because of the broken leg probably means he is bored out of his skull.

 

Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

 

Curiosity and titillation, see answer above.

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

 

It has been quite some time since I saw the film last: I need to re-watch it first.

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  1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window? -- The opening shot is an introduction to a world seen from a window. The viewer in this case since the character sleeps, has become the voyeur - we check in to see Jeffries is sleeping before we look again out the window, and then finally we look at him and his inner world.

 

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? -- According to our tour of his room, Jeffries likes to take photos of damage, I thought he may have been a race car driver and that was how his leg was damaged... not being a fan of Jimmy Stewart, this is not a film I've seen, so don't recall the character easily. He also had a friend who has a sense of humor, hence the writing on the leg; but not a lot of friends as the cast is not written upon by several people... only the one. Which could also mean only one friend was honored enough to touch said cast.

 

Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? -- More as a voyeur, a resident witnessing the morning routines of neighbors; because the camera moves its view, it doesn't create the effect of a immobile spectator; we are in the apartment with Jefferies, as if we were a guest waking up to the morning.

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? -- I always agree with Hitchcock, it's his life... I'm just looking at him through a window.

 

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  1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

The opening scene of this film is a trip around the courtyard that has become Jeff's life. The detail is amazing and the shot is amazing. I have watched this movie many times and did not take note of how the camera scans just as I would observing the cat, the birds on the roof, flowers, etc. in addition to the daily routines of the occupants of each apartment. Not only does this shot show us the apartment, but also glimpse into the busy city life of cars rushing by on the street and brilliantly there is enough room to peer into the coffee shop across the street. Hitchcock set an elaborate scene for a story. Jeff is resting, but we are provided a tour of his world.

 

 

  1. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

It's quite simple to see that Jeff has been in some dangerous places with his camera and can deduce that the cast and the broken camera are obviously his last photo shoot. The accident, of course, caused by some dangerous situation. I'm thinking the "negative" of his girlfriend who ends up as a cover girl on a major fashion magazine makes a statement about how he feels about his relationship.

 

 

  1. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

It's totally a spectator shot. We don't have to move a muscle, not even our eyeballs to see an entire world.

 

  1. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

I love this film and have watched it many times without thought to how creative and masterful it has been executed.d

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My first thoughts looking through that window was 1) Hitchcock starts 'every' film with an 'Entrance' and 2) When God closes a door, he opens a window. I don't know why it was the first thing that popped into my head? But it was. Also it made me think of the plot about this man, down on his luck, looking outward to escape from it through his lens and his window.

The opening shot immediately begins to establish Hitchcock's notorious second player ensemble who will play a much larger role in the film than you'd originally suspect.

The view gives the audience an idea of what Jeff's vantage point is despite the fact his back is turned currently.

Everyone was just waking up themselves.

You know Jeff is the main character.

He's the most 'close' up to the camera.

The backstory looks sad for Jeff; crummy apt. broken bones, broken camera, a world trade photo journalist down in the dumps not being able to be at the scene of the next hot story/picture.

Surprised empty bottles weren't scattered everywhere.

Plus, it's HOT.

People sleeping on the balcony hot.

I've been there.

So you KNOW tempers will be flaring.

Sex too.

I didn't feel like a voyeur until the girl brushing her hair in the one window, has her bra pop off n she bends over to put it back on.

As innocent as it is in her home, to you, the looker, that could be crossing the line to her.

So, I think a mixed cast is in there.

Some are innocent.

Some are not.

If you 'look' at all, you become complicit to voyeurism.

 

I can't say if this film is his most cinematic.

But I do know it's well regarded.

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1.    How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

 

The motion of the camera takes on the role of a viewer with great attention to detail. Scanning to and fro for colors, textures, movement, sounds, personalities and construction materials that all add up to a great compilation of character, which in effect, is the environment itself.

 

It appears to be Hitchcock’s vantage point and he is substituting himself into the role of the typical viewer in the audience.

 

2.    What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

It is clear that Jeff was injured in a job related incident. His room shows a broken camera and photographs of racing car wrecks and other dangerous circumstances. Additionally, we see a negative of a woman who is portrayed on the cover of a magazine, perhaps a friend or someone of interest to this photographer.

 

3.    Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

 

The opening sequence makes me feel like a visitor to Jeff’s apartment. The view is compelling enough that a person who is curious and alert might follow the same path as the camera. Scanning for details and taking in a unique cityscape that captures a lot of information about the environment that Jeff is living in.

 

4.    Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

 

I have not seen the entire film in many years. If Hitchcock says it is his most cinematic than it must be.

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1.  The opening scene takes the film audience from inside the "rear" window of an apartment and as the camera pans to the outside, into the courtyard and finally into the windows of the neighbors' apartments. Hitchcock is inviting us to participate as voyeurs in this particular neighborhood.  As spectators the camera creates for us a feeling of walking to the window to look outside.  We are seeing the courtyard, apartments, people, our POV shot as it were.  It is actually a reflection of a typical beginning of a day and the people we see are a reflection of a small cross section of ordinary people of various ages, sex, and relationships.  We also get our first introduction to the main character who has his back turned from the window as the camera brings us back into the room. We are provided more details about this man through an effective use of visual technique as there has been no dialogue to this point, just the radio in the background.

 

2, In this opening the camera pans to a man in a wheelchair and in a body and leg cast. We learn the man's name, L.B. Jeffries as it is written on his cast. The camera pans to his sweating brow and thermometer so we learn it is hot.  Sweeping across the room we see a smashed and broken camera, many graphic pictures, explosions, car crashes etc, establishing his work as a photographer who was most likely injured while on the job. This man under normal circumstances, involved in action, investigative journalism is now restricted by his injuries.

 

3. In the opening scene we have entered the world inside Jeffries' apartment and the windows of the neighbors, so yes we are now voyeurs. The fact that we are looking into other's windows is the definition of voyeurism, when the windows are open curiousity will get the better of us.

 

4. I think anytime you associate the word "most" with anything it's tough and in Hitchcock's case there are so many of his pictures through set design, the use of black and white photography, light and shadow, color, miniatures, location, clever camera techniques etc.  that are impressive.  I own a few Hitchcock film's so upon reflection I have to say of all of them Rear Window is the one I have re watched the most.  The set design, camera does most effectively create this small world to which we are invited and in many ways seems so familiar.  It is so successful in relating the screen experience into the everyday world of the audience i.e. feelings, fears, relationships of the audience while creating suspence and thrills and I think in this way it could be said to be the most cinematic.

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The opening scene isn't a Jeff's POV shot, yet the camera moves in an entirely voyeuristic way. It quickly shows us the entire field of action of the film, the apartments Jeff is able to look at through his camera and, finally, his own. Hitchcock gives us a taste of the claustrophobic, voyeuristic style of the entire film and wants to make us feel a guilty pleasure that we're watching all these people in their private lives.

 

Jeff is shown sweating, visibly dissatisfied with the fact he's unable to move because of his broken leg. The words written on his bandage is another display of Hitchcock's black humor. Afterwards, the camera moves to his apartment showing many photographs of important events, in order to let us know his profession, as well as fashion magazines. The first image we take of Jeff is one of a restless, adventurous man who is really bored to death because of his accident and tries to find a pastime fit to him.

 

Apart from the guilty pleasure I've already mentioned, the real feeling of watching a film comes to the mind in this scene. After all, when we're watching a film we are bound to our seats watching a story in which we have no part, and penetrating through the thoughts and feelings of the men involved. The way the camera moves through the apartment is disturbing and emphasizes these unique feeling.

 

I'm not sure if Rear Window is the most cinematic Hitchcock film, but it's certainly a strong candidate. It takes film back to its roots and meaning as "moving pictures", and this film is probably closer to the fundamental principles of "moving pictures" than anything else he's done.

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(1) As the camera pans around the courtyard, the viewer enters Jeff’s world.  The bustling and variety of the goings on remind me of an ant farm.  Since Jeff’s back is to the window, I consider the opening camera shot as that of an omniscient, silent “narrator.” 

 

(2) Based on the words on his cast—“Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jeffries”—being lame, to Jeff, is akin to being dead.  He thrives on action, and inaction is torture to him.  We learn that he is a photographer and that there is an element of danger to his profession, as evidenced by the photo equipment in his apartment, the content of the photos hanging on the wall, and his current state of injury.

 

(3) Yes, I feel like a voyeur during this opening scene.  However, given that the opening scene occurs in the daytime, I don’t feel as guilty about peering in on the neighbors as I would if it were night.  Something about the daylight makes the voyeurism less intrusive, in my opinion.  The subjects the camera finds, i.e. the neighbors, illustrates that we all have our morning routines but that each of us lives a different life and has different struggles/obstacles and motivations.

 

(4) I have seen Rear Window at least three times.  I would agree that it is Hitch’s most cinematic.  The conceit, the design, the cinematography, everything about it is masterwork cinema.  I get something new out of every viewing of it.

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1. The opening shot is not taken from Jeff's POV as he s shown sleeping however Hitchcock wants us to have an overview of his courtyard. The vantage point is the Jeff's apartment. Everything can be seen from there.

2. He has had his leg broken while working on the job as an action photographer. We see the broken leg, the broken camera followed by different action pictures which must have been taken from the middle of the action.

3. It makes you feel like you are a part of everyone's lives as you see them starting the day. Living in confined quarters leads you to believe that nothing is private. We see everything. It is all shot from a static location. Jeff's apartment.

4. It is his most cinematic because of the realism. It is hard to believe that this is a movie set. We even see birds flying through a shot plus other birds sitting on the opposite roof.  

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I'll take a crack at #4.

 

i definitely agree that it is highly cinematic.  But is it his his absolute best? 

 

For pure cinema and terror, I'd vote for Psycho.

 

For pure cinema and sheer exhilaration, I'd vote for North by Northwest.

 

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Though Jeff is asleep during the opening shot, it still looks to be from the POV of his apartment.

 

We learn that Jeff has a sense of humor with the writing on the cast (or someone in his life has a sense of humor). We also can guess he's a photographer.

 

The opening scene definitely makes you feel like a voyeur, especially when he focuses on the girl changing in her apartment because you know that she is unaware that anyone is watching. Also that the home is considered a safe space to all the people shown aren't thinking anyone would be watching them.

 

I plan on re watching because I definitely consider Psycho and North by Northwest to be more cinematic. However I do find that set to be pretty cool.

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Today, I will deviate from addressing the standard questions, in part because I think my classmates already do a great job of this, but also because today's lecture video motivated me to think about how Hitchcock incorporated his own life experiences into the storylines of his movies.

 

The lecture video mentioned that while filming Notorious, Hitch had observed that Ingrid Bergman had been having a real-life romantic affair with a photographer who subsequently rejected her, and this both surprised him (that anyone would reject Ingrid Bergman) and also made him believe that the pairing of working-stiff photographer Stewart with classy rich-girl Kelly would work.

 

This led me to wonder what other changes Hitch might have made, so I re-read the short story on which the film ​Rear Window was based (It Had to Be Murder ​by Cornell Woolrich). In it, the main character was not a photographer. The short story never specifically identifies the occupation of Hal Jeffries, although Slim Aarons says that the character was a writer (more on this later in this post). Instead of watching his neighbors through a telephoto camera lens, he uses a spyglass. And he doesn't try to foil his attacker's vision with flash bulbs. I will not go into how the short story ends, but suffice it to day that it ends very differently than the movie. But perhaps the most striking difference between the book and the movie is that the short story does not include the role played by Grace Kelly! I wonder what inspired Hitchcock to invent that major role for a beautiful blonde? To his credit, he did a great job with that, as the scene in which Grace Kelly is in Raymond Burr's apartment (and flashes the dead wife's wedding ring) is one of the great scenes in the film.

 

Because I am a fan of the writings of Cornell Woolrich and the photographs of society/celebrity photographer Slim Aarons, I already knew that the apartment building where Slim Aarons lived had been used as the model for the set that was built for the movie.

 

Here is a link to a short video in which Slim Aarons discusses this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qs2TDnOsXY

 

Slim says in this video that "few people" know that the protagonist was supposed to have been a writer, not a photographer (in my opinion, even Cornell Woolrich did not know that, but perhaps that is what Hitchcock told Aarons). In the video, Aarons explained that Hitchcock had asked him for pictures showing the kinds of places in Greenwich Village where real writers lived, and Aarons included a telephoto shot from his own apartment that he made for showing details of the windows (to help the set designers), but which also coincidentally showed the interiors of the rooms. Aarons takes credit for his photos persuading Hitch to use a telephoto lens to peer inside the rooms of the other apartments, but that was already a significant element of the short story (albeit by using a spyglass). Anyway, as a result of the photos taken by Aarons, Hitchcock may have decided to give the protagonist the profession of a photographer (or maybe Ingrid Bergman should get that credit). As Hitch explains in the lecture video, he had Stewart use flash bulbs to defend himself from Burr because Stewart was a photographer, and therefore he would think of using flash bulbs (I doubt that anyone else would). Clearly, he seems to have used one of his real-life experiences (observing the ill-fated affair that Bergman had with a photographer) and combined it with his own predilection for fleshing out the personas of his characters (having a photographer use photographic equipment to defend himself). Fleshing out all of his characters, even the minor ones, appears to have been a Hitchcockian touch. In the short story and the film, the same minor characters are included (such as Miss Torso), but the film reveals to us much more about them (albeit in a silent movie way, as we seldom hear any of their dialogue).

 

I think Hitchcock added many more of his personal embellishments to the movie, such as including much more humor than Woolrich did. One example, was the reunion of Miss Torso with her military husband (definitely not a Mr. Torso). Another was showing Jimmy Stewart wearing two casts at the end (in the short story, his Doctor says  “Guess we can take that cast off your leg now. You must be tired of sitting there all day doing nothing”). I would love to know more about what inspired Hitchcock to make which changes, (such as why Hitch changed the main character's name from Hal Jeffries to L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, but I suppose I will never know).
 
        

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Again, I believe that Hitchcock is not only the master of suspense but the master of foreshadowing. He takes the time to give the audience the expanse of the back garden - the different residents and even some characteristics about them - because we will see them again as the film progresses. I think that though Jeff's back is to the window, the shot is for the audience, to make a point that Hitchcock said in a clip we say last week. As the director, he has let the audience in on information that will be useful later. 

 

From the smashed camera, the framed photographs and the magazine covers in his apartment, we learn that Jeff gets paid to look at things. Through these simple clues we see that his work as a photographer makes him an expert on looking at things and people. And because Hitchcock takes the time to take us from one item to the next over time, I believe he makes the case that this information will be valuable again. 

 

There is a sense of voyeurism in the opening shot because we can see people in moment that they perceive themselves to be near invisible - just waking in the morning and getting ready for the day. I think that even with their doors and windows open, or even sleeping on the fire escape, they may still think that being within their apartment means that their privacy will be kept in tact, which is certainly a reasonable expectation. Living in shared and common space means that one cannot assume total privacy. 

 

I do think that Rear Window is beautifully made, with all of the work pretty much being shot from inside the apartment. You would think it would be a constraint on the story but it adds to the realism and the tension of the story as the murderer is discovered. 

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How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

 

I would describe this camera shot as "Jeff's world". I think with this opening shot, Hitchcock is just showing us what Jeff's life is - he's a photographer who can't work at the moment due to the broken leg and being confined to a wheelchair, so his life right now is what he sees outside of his window (even though his back is to the window in this shot, he is positioned near the window so we know that's where he's going to spend his time).   Jeff's vantage point is being expressed in this shot - even though the shot shows his back to the window, we are seeing what he would see if he were to turn around and look through his window.  Also, we are seeing the contents of his apartment, which tells us what his profession is. Looking through the windows would be equivalent to looking through the lens of a camera.
 

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

We learn that he is a photographer and it appears that he is either a sports photographer or a photojournalist, based on the photographs we see, and that Jeff may have been injured on the job while taking those types of photographs. However, there is also a negative of a fashion magazine cover, so we can assume he shot that photo too, which then makes it difficult to categorize what type of photography he does, or perhaps his career is evolving.

 

Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

 

I imagine that the opening shot is supposed to make me feel like a voyeur, but it does not.  For every film I watch, I'm an immobile spectator, this film doesn't make me feel more or less of one.

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

 

Since he said it was his most cinematic, I'll agree with him.

 

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1. I would describe the opening shot as a masterful visual narrative presenting the "universe" of the

    movie and hinting at some of the movie's themes and conflicts. Hitchcock is showing us our world

    giving us backstory on our protagonist and also introducing minor tableaus and foreshadowing

    romantic conflict. The vantage point is ours. We're the voyeurs in this moment- immediately  

    complicit despite ourselves. I love that the movie starts with us going OUT a window- when so 

    many of his movies start by going IN a window.

 

2. We learn

    -His name is L.B. Jeffries

    -He has no air conditioning

    -He's confined to a wheelchair with a leg broken from trying to take a photo of a car accident

      that ended up smashing his camera. (He's physically fearless, perhaps reckless, death wish?)

    -He's taken lots of exciting action photos around the world.

    -He has a wry sense of humor (as seen in the writing on his cast)

    -He considers being immobilized as synonymous with being dead (here lie the broken bones...)

    -He doesn't live with anyone who would force him to sleep in a real bed or add feminine touches

    -He can sleep through lots of noise and light- is used to "roughing it"

    -He makes a modest living to afford this middle class apartment in a safe area where people leave

      their windows open & sleep outside. 

    -He'll do fashion photography but takes a cynical view of it (framed negative is a critique perhaps)

    -He has tons of photographic equipment and keeps it nearby in case needed- not packed away.

     (perhaps indicating he's in denial of how long he'll be laid up?)

    -He doesn't have a routine or anywhere to be in the morning. 

    -He's not afraid of sleeping with his back to the open windows

 

3. I guess I never feel like a voyeur because I realize I'm watching a movie and the movie is giving

    me permission to be a voyeur- in fact demanding that I become a voyeur. Honestly the only thing

    that gives me the creeps is when I start to realize that I might be voyeuring Hitchock himself

    into his mind, his obsessions. Although Miss Torso makes me a little uncomfortable- 

    more of a projection of a man's fantasy than a peek into a real existence. Lisa helps when she

    interprets for us what Miss Torso's life is really like. It's like "juggling wolves". Her pov comes in as

    interpretive counterbalance to the male view. 

 

   Most of the time I feel pity and fascination for the people Hitchcock shows us.

 

   The composer guy is lonely and keeps his radio on all the time for companionship. He's developing

   a paunch and doesn't want to be reminded of it by the commercials. He's living a disorganized

   bachelor existence where he shaves in the living room.

 

   The couple on the balcony has developed a completely routinized sexless practical partnership.

   They sleep in public so no intercourse. They have their alarm clock set. They lower their dog out

   at regular intervals. They're completely self contained unit, but no romance to it.

 

   Miss Torso is obsessed with her body's needs for exercise and food but is unaware of the effect

   it might have on a watcher. Like the composer, she seems immature. She wears a young girlish

   almost babyish pink costume. She does leg kicks at the table. She's not integrating her life with

   anyone else's. This is similar to L.B. 

    

 

 

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Further Reflections:  After watching the clip, please go to Twitter (#Hitchcock50) or the TCM Message Board (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.to continue your reflections on this clip. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

1.     How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

In my opinion, it is part of that “touch” used by AH. The set is a character and the character is a seemingly private place that is actually a public place. Jeff has his back to the window because he is disinterested. He does not see a sports cars careening out of control, a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb test, he does not see glamorous people from the world of fashion (I refer to the pictures he has taken that are shown in the opening scene). Jeff’s shattered camera (in my opinion) is also a picture that depicts the realities and messiness of “the real world” that Jeff chooses to see in a very selective way. The courtyard as a public place is interesting in that the neighbors do not connect (i.e. no one looks over to another building or apartment and says, “Good morning” or interacts in any way. The courtyard becomes a vehicle in which Jeff’s neighbors are portrayed as real people – we can see as they act out their needs and desires, e.g. “Miss Lonely Heart.”

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? It is interesting that Jeff’s vantage point is looking down or across to his neighbors so he never looks up to them. In my opinion, Jeff’s vantage point symbolizes the emotional distance that a news reporter must exercise in order to “objectively” report events. While the “camera never lies” we see that the camera is not indestructible. I also throw in this random thought: everybody gets their “15 minutes of fame.”

2.     Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? Yes it does make me feel like a voyeur and it does make me feel like an immobile spectator. It is the same feeling I have when I watch the news and I see “feel good” stories and then a daily dose of human suffering on a grand scale, e.g. coverage of natural disasters or war or terrorism.

3.     Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I agree with AH because he uses a mundane “monument” the courtyard of a set of apartment buildings as opposed to Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty.  

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How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

 

By scanning around the incredible courtyard set and all of the walks of life that reside within this complex and ultimately seeing Stewart's broken leg Hitchcock establishes that this film's location may exclusively take place here. Despite Stewart's back to the window, I still feel we are seeing his vantage point since it is his apartment.

 

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

We see Jeff's broken leg first, then his destroyed camera. Then through a series of photographs, that we now know he shot, we can assume Jeff injured himself while photographing something adventurous, possible even dangerous.

 

Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

 

Hitchcock turns us into voyeurs in this clip. We are looking in on everyone. There's an array of feelings due to the variety of people. We see some people sleeping in, working people & of course sexy Miss Torso.

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

 

Not sure if I agree that it is his most cinematic film. It may be, might not. What it does do is take the single setting and instead of it feeling claustrophobic it opens up a compelling story with all kinds of personalty from all the neighbors.

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  1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window? We are seeing the world of Jeff....yes he is not engaged at this time....but this is his world....we are initially brought into it and seeing first hand what he sees and how much his participation in this world can be is he friendly with these neighbors....what will his interaction be with them....

What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?....Jeff obviously is limited in his movement....the broken camera did he break his leg along with breaking the camera....was it from taken these action pictures....yes to that .....he is a photographer....who will not be out and about taking pictures for a while....the panning through his apartment tells us alot without the dialogue....love that opening

Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? I have to say I would be looking out the window....and wondering about all the people in the different apartments....who are they.... how is there relationship (meaning the couples I see).... what are their lives about....It makes me feel like a spectator watching a show

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I love Rear Window one of my favorites...yes as I am taking this course I would agree most cinematic....It was intriguing for me to find out that this was a completely built set....I first thought the one location of the film was probably less costly than being on location....I guess in this age we are so use to assuming things are CG...what a fabulous set

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The opening camera shot in Rear Window, I would describe as pure Hitchcock, fluid camera moves establishing the story’s location (a large bustling city), the local environment (a large tenet building), the immediate environment (James Stewart’s apartment), the weather (summer and extremely hot), the time of day (early morning), the variety of types of neighbors (eclectic) and James Stewart’s “state of being”, which is disabled and the reason why (his daring exploits from being a professional photographer in the middle of the action).  In less than three minutes into this film, without any dialogue, the audience is given a wealth of information from which the story can evolve as well as a number of characters that may or may not be important in its’ development.  The vantage point expressed in this shot is us, the audience, making us the silent room mates to Jeff, enabling us to view him as he views the world around him. 

 

We are all voyeurs.  Sight is the most important of the five senses and it is this visual system that allows us to assimilate information from our surroundings which is exactly what Jeff’s character, a professional photographer or voyeur happens to be doing.  Alfred Hitchcock has story boarded and composed the sets and framed the story the same as a photographer would.  The feeling Hitchcock stirs within his captive audience is “we are all on display”, whether we are conscious of it or not.  In Rear Window the circumstances of Jeff the professional voyeur is that in being confined to a wheelchair, he has nothing else to do but look out his window which is limited to viewing nothing, but his neighbors.  Adding to the fact it is during an extremely hot summer and everyone’s priority is to keep cool with their windows open and privacy takes a back seat. 

 

I am not sure that I can agree with Hitchcock that Rear Window is his most cinematic film, as I would rank it equal to Vertigo (1958) for being visually spectacular.   Maybe not a fair comparison since Vertigo had the visual advantage of location shooting (& logistical nightmare) all around the San Francisco peninsula whereas Rear Window was all shot on a sound stage.  Apples and oranges?  It’s a tough call, but these are probably my two most favorite Hitchcock films. 

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1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

 

The opening shot of this film establishes all of the many characters that will play a role in this film. Because Jeff has his back to the window, the point of view expressed in this shot is that of us, the audience. From the start, we are voyeurs in this film, the same as Jeff. These people that we're looking at might be our neighbors; this window we're looking out of might be our window.

 

2. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

 

Through Hitch's time and emphasis on the camera and the photographs, we can ascertain that Jeff is a photographer. Some of the photographs we see look like they could have put Jeff in danger, so we might be able to guess his broken leg is the result of a shoot gone wrong. Without sounding too sexist, you might also be able to assume that Jeff is a bachelor, as his apartment looks more like a place where he works, as opposed to a real home.

 

3. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

 

This opening scene definitely makes me feel like a voyeur. As Hitchcock himself said in the interview with Truffaut, "I’ll bet you that nine times out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and say, ‘It’s none of my business.’ They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out.” And it's true; we can't look away. 

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic?

 

I would agree that this film is indeed cinematic. Because the entirety of the film takes place in Jeff's apartment, looking out that one window, there is a lot of masterful filmmaking needed to capture and keep the audience's attention. The camera angles, the use of light and shadow, etc. make this film cinematic. 

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Boy, is it hot. You can see the sweat bubbling off of Jeff's forehead. No air-conditioning. Kinda important. They couldn't have done this movie if it were winter. 

 

Hitch introduces the entire film, everything we need to know, in the first two minutes, without dialog. This would take most directors at least 15-20 (boring) minutes, and then they'd probably screw it up anyway. Hitch's version is tight, economic, humorous, and informative. Burks' camera work is phenomenal and so is the art direction. All of the little apartments have their own look. No two are the same.

 

One thing I've noticed about Hitchcock's sets is that they're very realistic (hyper-realistic?), but at the same time, you have this bizarre stuff going on. Dreadful things are happening in everyday situations. Does this increase the audience's emotional involvement? You betcha. 

This has to be Hitchcock's favorite film because he IS Jeff. Jeff is Alfred.

 

One more thing I'd briefly like to point out is that >> Hitchcock ALWAYS has a naked (half-naked) woman in his movies. Go all the way back to 'The Pleasure Garden.' In every film we've watched, so far, we get to see some nice leg. Get down with your bad self, Hitch. Why does he insist on doing that? He likes naked women himself. He knows the audience will like it, and then the word of mouth will help promote the film. Good idea, Alfred.

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