Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Lots of great posts today, thanks everyone!

 

I would like to focus in just one area as it relates to vesting the audience into Jeff's world by the viewpoint from the Rear Window. Hitchcock has introduced you into the extent to his life in the chair, in the apartment, and through the window which is all Jeff has since his injury.

 

The question of whether he is a voyeur or an observer is a key here. He is evidently an action photographer which requires him to be involved in the action to a degree and therefore is the ultimate observer who is out in the world experiencing all of the exciting things it has to offer. It is that life and excitement that likely attracted a mate that on the surface seems to be a mismatch. A bit like why supermodels seem to date rockstars and other types of adventurers that often from looks alone appear to be a mismatch.

 

I suggest that since the accident, Jeff feels that his life has been placed on hold. Everything he loves about living an exciting life is out of his reach. He has become frustrated, closed off, and irritable causing the tension and distance in his relationship. Inwardly and to others, he is no longer the person that made him interesting and exciting. Since he has been trapped in the apartment he has gone from an observer and participant in life to a voyeur who is forced to live life at a distance and therefore vicariously through others. This forced narrowing of his world causes an unaware jealousy of the people closest to him and they too are frustrated and trying to find their place in this.

 

His need with finding action in his tiny new world has resulted in an obsession with what is occurring across the courtyard. The problem is that this obsession has gravity sucking in the people in his life as they want to again feel the connection to him.

 

Hitchcock has brilliantly hooked in the audience to take that same ride.

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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?

He is establishing us as voyeurs. 

  • 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?

The pictures and the broken camera tell us what his job is and that he may have sustained his injury at work. 

  • 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?

We learn that the dancer is a dancer because of her actions. We learn about her through watching. We become Jeff before we even know what happens next. I love the feeling I get when I am made to be a voyeur while watching a film. It means that so many people did an amazing job because they made me feel like I am doing or did something I shouldn't. 

 

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

I never thought of that before but I would agree. It contains so many elements without having to go too big. 

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Rear Window is also one of my favorites, is a magnificent film, is entertaining and visually perfect. It shows us a microcosm reflecting life itself in its different times.  This opening marks a contrast: begins a day of heat, are neighbors beginning their daily routine. The music accompanies this tour of homes, from the window of Jeff. Then, another decision shows us Jeff sleeping, oblivious to this everyday. As if it was someone strange, which is outside. Then we learned of their status and their profession, all with images, and a consistent musical background. We don't need anything else to know who is who and what is its role. We are spectators that we are watching a film where the protagonist- and we indirectly - look and we get into the daily life of the people.

 

 I agree that is more cinematic film. Everything happens for camera lens and point of view, the masterful construction of that building near real, and also the use of images of what Jeff sees accompanied always by a Flash of her face showing his reaction to what he sees. Finally, although it does not appear in this brief scene, the first appearance of Grace Kelly is like a brief but illuminating shadow left before the face of Jeff. Pure psychology!!!!!

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A truly timeless movie.  The opening scene makes me feel like Hitchcock brought the world to his lens rather than going out to see the world.  He takes us with him and brings a number of other worlds to our screens. I think we are all voyeurs and thats why we've always enjoyed people watching at a cafe and now, social media.  We can see from Jeff's apartment that he is an active man, but now immobile and certainly bored.   I'm torn between this as the director's most cinematic film vs North by Northwest.  

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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 first shot is very busy and colorful, a candy store for our eyes. In this visual potpourri, we are shown the many different flavors from which we can choose. It takes us through an open window into a wonderland of sorts. We hear the sounds of the city and of the residents whose apartments face their backyards.

 

As Hitchcock has the camera zoom and pan across this most intriguing and intricate set, I try to imagine his storyboard. I can’t. He takes us into the myriad worlds of the everyday lives of the residents of one city block and the variety of buildings there. It appears to be New York City because of the painted backdrop. It just has the feel of that city. With windows wide open, it is obviously summer in the city. We are given an unblemished look into whosever life we wish to peer into. We don’t have to peek, we get to watch the individual TV shows from our own living room - so this POV belongs to the viewer.

 

 

 

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 must be very uncomfortable for his leg because he is dripping with sweat. The temperature is in the 90s. (I understand people had no AC back then, but no one even has a fan?) I cannot make out what the mess on his desk contains. This disorganization may indicate his frustration at being trapped inside a cast. We can see he’s a man who likes action and danger from the pictures on his wall. Is that why he broke his leg? We soon learn he is a photographer by the negative picture which was used on the cover of a magazine. Putting two and two together we know shoots auto races along with beautiful women. But we are left to wonder why he has the atomic bomb test shot hanging next to his own work.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

I did not feel like a voyeur at all. His neighbors have their windows wide open. They may assume that like themselves, people are too busy to care about anyone else. (I always thought voyeurs, secretly peeked in at people doing sexual acts to gratify themselves.)

Nor did I feel like an immobile spectator. I chose to watch what I was seeing, both the film and in my life. It reminded me of the times I sat on a friend’s porch, gazing at people on the beach below us. Sometimes we would imagine who they were and compose stories about their lives...why they were alone, were they annoyed having to keep telling their kids to be careful, which child was the smart one, etc. Other times, we just listened to music, got drowsy, stared at the ocean or took a nap. I would do similar things (when not doing my homework), during my long subway rides to school.

I have always liked to watch people.

 

I felt curious and interested while we “peered” into the other apartments. But that was exactly how Hitchcock wanted me to feel. He is one of the best cinematic manipulators in history. I guess if I was working (I worked from home), I would be too involved to see anything else.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

I used to think his most cinematic film was Vertigo but this class has opened my eyes to the visual construction. I think he felt that way because of the phenomenal set he had built for this film. And how they had to invent a new camera rig for Rear Window. I learned from your lecture just how large and detailed it was.

 

His composer, Franz Waxman, scored the movie with music he blended with music from the set. But Hitch hired him!

 

https://irom.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/lisa-and-the-music-in- hitchcocks-rear-window/

 

https://irom.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/lisa-and-the-music-in-hitchcocks-rear-window/

 

I hope this link works because it connects to a blog about the score. If you have to cut and paste it, do it.

 

But the way Hitchcock instructed and blocked the camerawork within this confined set was something he had worked towards from the beginning of his career. It thrilled me. He demanded explicit long shots and editing. Even if you have only seen this opening scene, his first shot is a long shot. Notice where his first cut is. He blends gentle camerawork inside Jeff’s apartment vs the pans of the “exterior” shots.

 

He convinced me.

 

(Was this much attention paid to his other films? I am curious.)

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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?

 

The opening camera shot is voyeuristic, which is a theme of this movie. The idea of a ‘Peeping Tom’ has been mentioned in reference to Jeff. Jeff IS a peeping tom, and so are we:

  1. We watch the neighbors with as much interest as Jeff – we never look away
  2. We watch Jeff and Lisa
  3. We watch this movie
  4. We watch other movies. We are always peeping into other’s lives in film.

Jeff is also SUPPOSED to be a peeping tom, in that it is his JOB: he is an action photographer. It is his job to look at people, things, and events, and to photograph them, so that his readers may look (peep) at them as well.

 

Hitchcock establishes many things in the opening without a single word of dialogue:

  1. That Jimmy Stewart is the main character
  2. That he has a broken leg
  3. That his name is L.B. Jeffries
  4. That he’s a professional photographer
  5. That he injured his leg photographing a racing car accident
  6. That he’s passionate about his work (see #5)
  7. That his opinion of women may be ‘skewed’ (the negative of a woman’s face)
  8. That it’s very hot (also a metaphor for passion and potential danger)

Hitch also establishes many of the characters:

  1. A cat (pets will play an important role in the movie)
  2. The couple sleeping on the fire escape
  3. Miss Torso
  4. The musician
  5. The real world via the cars and pedestrians in the alley

Hitchcock also establishes the environment – the courtyard of the apartment complex, where the entire film will take place.

The Vantage point is Jeff’s apartment. It is also OUR vantage point as we are the ones watching

 

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?

 

Already discussed in question 1. Hitchcock has done similar things in the openings of other films. The opening of Shadow of a Doubt begins with a scene showing the camera panning from Charlie to the money, we see a lot about Charlie from that shot. Strangers on a Train has an even longer opening sequence without dialoge that tells us a lot with visuals only.

 

Film critic Donald Richie commented on the Akira Kurosawa film ‘The Lower Depths’ (a film which is confined to a single set – the long house where all the characters reside):

 

                “In one sense he opens up the film by closing it down – that is by confining the characters within this small environment, it allows him to more fully explore the characters.”*

 

Hitchcock can do this here as well  - as in Lifeboat, by closing down the environment to a small area, he can more closely examine the characters of Lisa, Jeff, and Stella, and so on.

*the quote may not be precise, as I am quoting it from memory

 

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?

 

Again I addressed this in question 1.

  1. Jeff is a voyeur.
  2. Lisa is a Voyeur.  (she must look at other people to be aware of fashion trends
  3. So is Stella (as a visiting nurse she can’t help but enter other’s private places)
  4. So is Tom Doyle (who looks into people’s lives as part of his job)

We are a voyeur watching the apartment, watching Jeff & Lisa, watching this film, and watching other film. We also Study this film to learn more.

And as noted in the noted for this module it reminds us that Hitchcock, and all filmmakers, are Voyeurs, and so are the audiences they make films for.

 

Is it his most cinematic?

 

it is cinematic in the sense that all the windows are like mini movies: different stories going on that Jeff (and we) watch.

 

However, It is only ONE type of Cinema. We have seen, and will see, that Hitchcock uses every cinematic tool available to him - in different movies and in different ways.

 

  1. In Rope Hitch uses the effect of a ‘single take’  - a cinematic technique
  2. He uses special effects (models in The Lady Vanishes and Number 17, Matte paintings in NxNW and Marnie, The rice paper in The Foreign Correspondent airplane crash
  3. Hitch uses camera ‘tricks’: the special ‘dolly-out/zoom-in’ shots in both Vertigo (the staircase) and more subtly in Marnie (Marnie remembering her childhood)
  4. He uses super impositions in films (The ring, and Vertigo as Judy remembers the murder)
  5. Hitch uses crane shots in (Psycho and Frenzy)
  6. Helicopter shots (Frenzy)

We can see that in most every film he makes he uses different ‘cinematic techniques’ to tell his story. In that sense, ALL his films are ‘cinematic’ as he was master of the art of ‘cinema’ which is not limited to one device only.

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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?
  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?

 

It could be extremely important that the first glimpse we see of our protagonist is when he is asleep.   Perhaps we are projections of Jeff's own unconscious dream-state, which is an "out of body" POV - looking at himself and his apartment as well as the world outside his apartment.   Once he awakens, we will share his POV.   But, in any case, we initially see him when he is at his most vulnerable, which makes him more sympathetic.  Taking into account we are now "Peeping Toms", too.

 

Who, what, where, when and why are all answered, for many of the above reasons (so won't go into them again) - as well as backstory:

 

1.  Jeff is a photographer, so the tendency for looking into other people's lives and events was probably already deeply ingrained before even before the accident which confined him.  He might have chosen that profession just for that reason.

 

2.  The fact that it is so blazingly hot that early in the morning only facilitates the voyeuristic atmosphere.   Practically everyone's windows are wide open to the world - with only a couple of notable exceptions as the movie progresses.  No A/C.   I also took this to mean that the sweltering weather had been on hand for some time.   This wasn't only for a brief interlude - a short window of opportunity - but meant a slower, studied surveillance.  Later, Jeff's knowledge of the neighbor's activities solidifies this.

 

3.  It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Jeff to write those words on the cast himself.  

 

4.  I do not believe that the negative and cover shot of the model are to be those of Grace Kelly.  But it likely gives the history as to how two individuals with such different interests and backgrounds met.  It does illustrate that Jeff was a worldwide traveler.  That, along with the photos of obviously dangerous activities, would make any enforced confinement that much more tedious to him.

 

5.  Even though this is only fiction, it gives us insight that we too could be just as "guilty" as Jeff, given the proper circumstances.

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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?

     

    He is trying to establish Jeff's world. We go to the window sill and see the world waking up. Jeff is one of those who doesn't need to get up early. We see him sweat and then see how hot it is already. We got back out side and see the composer getting ready for the day. We see the couple sleeping on the fire escape waking up. We see (a lot of) Miss Torso. When we come back to Jeff, we see his cast and his photos. We learn he is a very active photographer and we feel a bit of sympathy for him in his wheelchair. I believe we are seeing this from Lisa's point of view.

     

  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?

     

    We see his cast, we see his photos. His work shows he is a man of action and daring, used to danger. I believe the magazine cover is Lisa and it is odd that he uses the negative as a portrait.

     

  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?

     

    It does a bit. Hitchcock definitely tries to provoke that feeling with Miss Torso removing and replacing her top while we watch. The other vignettes create a sense of curiosity as we see slices of ordinary life.

     

  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 never considered this before. I think this is probably the broadest vista he provides in a film. Even though we have seen St Moritz and will see Mt Rushore, they are restricted views. Here we see the whole courtyard. It's broad and vast.

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We are introduced to the director and cinematographer's POV, and it then becomes the audiences' & ours.

Jeffries backstory is revealed by focusing on the photos on the wall, which works perfectly as the Protagonist is an action photographer. Each building's tenants are introduced by tightly matched visual to sound design: cat 's meow, to jazzy & dance music, to radio voice.

Are we coaxed to become Voyeurs? Our guilty pleasure, probably, but we are then in the joke. NYers are famous for gazing from their windows into the next, it has become their entertainment. Besides, how can you help but turn away as the tenants are EXHIBITIONISTS!

This is indeed Hollywood Hitch's most cinematic film. He is the camera and we are its light ~ still pics becoming movie magic.

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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 revels the world that "Jeff" is not confined to. You see the various apartment complexes and some of their inhabitants. Well, we definitely see what Jeff sees it establishes the voyeuristic attitude of the film. 

 

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? Since the cast is from hip to toe, I would speculate that Jeff broke his ankle. Above the ankle more than likely given the time that the film was made. You also see the broken camera and the variety of photos that are around. The framed negative could be used to talk about Jeff and Lisa's relationship from Jeff's point.

 

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? Having had one or both of my legs broken and been in traction for three months, I can sympathize with Jeff especially when you see the seasons change out of the window. I do feel like a voyeur watching people that don't know that their privacy is being invaded. But some people like to leave their windows open. (See Mr. Brooks)

 

4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I would think so. The one large set was used by Jerry Lewis in a film also. But it's a more visual film than say, Lifeboat, due to a larger set even though they are both confined to a solitary set.

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The way the camera moves in this scene makes you the voyeur. Jeff's back is to the camera, so clearly this is supposed to be the perspective of the audience. When "spying" on the neighbors across the eay, it's from the outside looking in - we never go inside the window frames - thus putting us in the perspective of the peeping tom. The view flits from window to window but from a seemingly fixed height, craning up to view the higher apartments and looking down at the lower ones, like any nosy neighbor's eyes would be (and as Jeff would indeed do).

 

But the voyeurism is enhanced in the one apartment we do enter - Jeff's. The camera here becomes the nosy in-in-law that scrutinize everything on your walls, stoops over your stuff, and silently judges you. "We" via the camera even look at Jeff a few times almost as if to make sure he's still sleeping while we snoop.

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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?

The opening shot clearly is meant to show all the apartments and lives Jeff can spy on. I think it is showing Jeff's view point, even though his back is to the camera. It is interesting in that the camera pans across his face, as if we are in his apartment looking out, so it could be there to show the audience's vantage point.

The opening shot is typical Hitchcock in that it is busy, with lots of average characters. He very subtly gives

us clues about the temperature, relationships, and Jeff's career. I think he is, as he does in all his films, introducing us to his characters.

 

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 Jeff has a broken leg and that he is middle class, based on his apartment. The photos and equipment make us believe he is a photographer, one that makes great action photos. We learn he has a stack of fashion magazines also, so he either has a shot in those or has a girlfriend that is very intrested in fashion. Hitchcock clearly placed the clues for us to read, without a word. Pure genius!

 

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?

 

I don't really feel like a voyeur. These people clearly left their windows/blinds open. If they wanted privacy, they would have closed them. Just because they are open though, you aren't necessarily a voyeur. When he uses the lense to look thorough, then I think he steps into the voyeur role. I think Hitchcock is trying to make to see what Jeff is exposed to everyday, not make us spy. He uses this opening scene to introduce us to the characters, so he has to make us met them some how, so this is a very clever way to do that.

I get the feeling of curiousity- who are these people, what are they doing and why are they doing that. I also think it makes you see how lonely Jeff has become sitting in that apartment with nothing to do, but look out and live via his neighbors.

 

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

Oh my, it would be close with Vertigo. The rich sets and costumes appear in both, although Vertigo happens in many sets and Rear Window takes place in that apartment. I guess,if you take that in mind, then possibly it could be. Since he is the creator, I'll defer to his opinion.

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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 camera shot is an in-depth continuing pan around the apartment courtyard giving the viewer the full description and feel of the architect and different levels of the apartments and how the apartment connects with the use of fire escapes and stairwells. I think Hitchcock is trying to make me feel like I am the one looking out the apartment window!

 

Hitchcock has always found a way and has been good to let the viewer participate in his movies, so the vantage point being expressed is from us, the viewer.  It’s Hitch saying, “Ok, I’ll give you a room in an apartment so take a look at my staging and my characters…the story is about to begin”.

 

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?

 

Immediately you can tell Jeff lives in one of the very high apartments and it is very hot outside because Jeff is sweating and sleeping near an open window; he is in a wheelchair with an injured leg because of the cast on his leg; he must be a photographer because we see the camera equipment and the negative of the cover photo on the magazine.  It wouldn’t mean much to us to see the magazine unless we were shown the negative because this confirms that Jeff is in possession of the negative which means he is the photographer who took that photo.

 

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?

 

Yes, for sure, this scene definitely brings me in as if I were another tenant in one of the apartments looking over the entire courtyard; watching and panning through the open windows of the other tenants making me feel like, I too, am a peeping Tom.  But what else is there to do when one's been active traveling all over the world viewing and taking pictures and then suddenly finds himself as an invalid in a high-rise apartment overlooking other apartments?  In today's world, we are all "Peeping Toms" on FaceBook; looking at all the personal activities and thoughts that people post.  I guess Jeff could have kept his blinds down 24/7, but the heat was too much, so everyone kept their windows opened; although the tenants went about their business (and murder) because they had two good legs to dance and move around; Jeff had to sit and just watch.

 

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

 

I do agree that this is the most cinematic film I’ve seen of his. I have seen this movie about 15 times and am still amazed at the details of the apartments, the stairs, the courtyard with the flowers, the different windows and window shades, and the different tenants.

 

I noticed too, that Hitchcock must really like the color green on a woman because the first time we see Miss Lonelyhearts she is wearing a light green dress, then in another scene when she is getting ready for her date, she is wearing a darker green dress.  In addition to that, Hitch puts Lisa in a light green suite, similar to that color of the green suit worn by Tippi Hendren in the Birds.

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July 18, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 14 

 

Rear Window, on the other hand, can be reproduced theatrically. For starters, the entire setup is a stage because the “set” that Jimmy Stewart views through his lens is vast--so vast, we can’t even cross the proscenium line, thus we experience the same limitations theater has that the cinema camera doesn't, with its ability to shift the 180 degree line to almost anywhere, and frame shots in various sizes.

 

Also, while the opening shot where we learn about Jimmy Stewart’s character through the items in his room is a “cinematic” way to establish character, the same amount of information can be understood organically through a well designed theatrical set. 

 

(I partly agree with you, which you will see in the end of my reply :):))

 

Actually, Hitchcock can and does cross the 'proscenium line in the film. Every time we see Jeff, Lisa, Stella, and Tom Doyle - every time we are in the apartment, we are looking from a view across that line. We see shots in the apartment BEHIND the window (Proscenium). Even the first shot passes THROUGH the proscenium (window) and on to Jeff's forehead. Then on into the apartment - his table with the smashed camera, photos on his wall, the negative of the woman, stacks of magazines...

 

If we never crossed the line we would never at any point see Jeff, Lisa, Tom, or Stella, unless they were outside the apartment, or framed within the window.

 

I mention this because it is KEY to one of Hitchcock's most characteristic traits as a film maker: Subjective view. In most all of his films he shows someone observing, followed by a shot of what is being observed.

  1. In Psycho we see a shot of Lila looking as she approaches the house, followed by a shot of approaching the house as if we were she,
  2. In Downhill we saw the boys looking as they approached the Headmaster, followed by a shot of approaching the Headmaster as if we were them.
  3. In spellbound we see a shot of Constance approaching Dr. Edwards room, followed by a shot of the door with the light under it as if we were her.
  4. Etc.

Since Rear Window more than ANY other Hitchcock film is about subjective view - the ENTIRE film is about Jeff watching the neighbors - Hitchcock uses reverse angle shots, or else the film would not work. In this film we see a shot of Jeff looking with a camera, followed by a reverse angle (180 degree) shot of what he sees. Indeed, we even see the reflection of what he sees in the camera lens AS he's looking, making a kind of '360 degree' effect. We see Lisa looking, followed by a shot of what we see, etc.

 

While you could recreate the STORY of Rear Window on stage, you could NEVER even approach the subjective idea which Hitch supplies in the film: What the characters think when they see is often shown without dialogue, through the use of close ups.

 

Remember it is not enough to tell a story. Hitchcock gets into the minds of the characters. It is a psychological thriller. Jeff comes to the conclusion that Lars is up to no good from things he sees, without any dialogue. We see into Jeff's mind as we along with Jeff think what he thinks: that Lars is up to no good.

 

And some things could NEVER be reproduced theatrically. Just as the closeup of the key is vital in Notorious, so is the close up of the Wedding ring in Rear Window. THAT is so crucial, it is in fact the ONE thing that completely incriminated Lars and proves to Jeff, Lisa, Stella, Doyle, and US the audience that Lars IS guilty. That is a purely cinematic shot just as in Notorious and the key.

 

Jeff's binoculars and ultimately his camera with telephoto lens see into apartments to get details you could never show on a stage: Stella notices with binoculars Miss Lonely Hearts took pills, for example. And at the climax we see one of the most cinematic shots of all - the close up through the telephoto lens of Lisa wearing the ring, panning up to a close up of Lars looking at the wiggling finger, and then straight at US (the audience) and Jeff, which lets us know that HE knows we know about him. It is a crucial moment, told purely cinematic while a completely different thing is going on (Lisa being questioned by police) that could never be reproduced cinematically.

 

So while you COULD produce Rear Window theatrically, that is not how Hitchcock shot it. You could in theory produce a play of Notorious theatrically. The wine bottle scene could easily be recreated by half the stage a set of the party scene and the other half a set of the wine cellar, with action going on either simultaneously or alternately using lighting and scrims.

 

Additionally, dialogue scenes within the apartment follow standard reverse-angle technique used in most American films, following rules like screen direction and so on.

 

Incidentally, I sort of agree with your answer. My answer is that ALL of Hitchcock's films are 'cinematic', though he uses different techniques in different films. You pointed out the use of cross cutting and montage in Notorious is cinematic. Yes it is. It is a different technique than Hitch uses in Rear Window. He uses other cinematic techniques in other films. Even Rope, which much seem the most 'stage-like' of all his films uses the 'single-take' technique for a cinematic effect to what essentially could be otherwise a filmed stage play.

 

So, in the end I partly agree with you. :):):)

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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?

 

We see the courtyard of the apartment complex through the window of Jeff's apartment.  The opening shot pans through Jeff's window to the window views of the all the neighbors.  Hitch sets up the minor characters of Rear Window in the opening shots.  We see the married couple with the dog sleeping on the firescape, the dancer in her apt, the composer/pianist in his apt,  etc.   We also see the heat of the city.  The feeling of clausterphobia, tension and people trying to make the beset of it.  We see the milkman, the kids playing in the street with fire hydrant etc.  

 

It is amazing to see how intricate this sound stage set is. Working electricity in every apt. The intricate sets and detail is amazing. 

 

The audience sees the movement through Jeff's eyes.  It is voyeuristic and uncomfortable.  Hitch doesn't miss anything.  There are even pidgeons on the roof.  Cat and other pets.  We see the thermometer in Jeff's apt. and the heat of summer. 

 

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 know Jeff is in a cast and trapped in that hot apt.  We know he is a photographer/journalist from the photos around him on the wall.  They seem to deal with dark stories.. which indicate that Jeff's life has drama/trauma and is tense. 

 

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?

 

The opening scene does indeed make the audience feel trapped, and like a voyeur.  The feeling is confining. We feel tempted to view but also like we shouldn't.  We sense Jeff's irritation about his situation,  There is sweat on his brow,  he is hot, itching, stuck in that apartment all day with nothing to do but look out the window.  There is a sense of restlessness

 

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

 

Absolutely: The fact that Hitch can create so much depth in such a confined space/set is amazing.   We feel for all the characters which are well developed.. Not just Jeff in the wheelchair with the broken leg.  There is the lady who's dog has been murdered and we feel for her loss. We feel for the lady looking for love, lonely and sad.  We feel for the pianist/composer trying to get a break  or the artist below him with her sculptures.  There are all the commentaries Hitch makes on relationships.  The sexy dancer who is the object of desire but secretely dating a short/bald/fat guy.  There is the newlywed couple adjusting to living together.  There is the guy who murdered his wife and that tension.  It is a well synchronized choreographed dance through all the intricate set windows.  It is so intricate that when I watch this movie again and again... I discover new things I missed.  Like the pidgeons on the roof or the kids playing in the fire hydrant. Or the gigolo on the corner getting money from a lady.  (Or all the party guests across the courtyard each with their own characterizations and motivations.  

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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 all the stars in a series of individual movies playing in each one of the neighboring apartments.  Our seat is inside Jeff’s apartment and the overall film is from our (the viewer’s) vantage point.  We also have a front row seat for the movie playing in Jeff’s apartment, as well as (that we see later) a close-up of the visual playing in Jeff’s mind.

 

 

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?

 

Jeff, wearing pajamas, is confined to a wheelchair in a very hot apartment in an urban city.  It’s morning and the temperature is already over 90 degrees.  The apartment is cluttered with belongings that suggest Jeff is a bachelor.  He has a well-stocked liquor shelf.

 

Jeff does photography as serious hobby or as his career based on the multiple cameras and camera equipment in the apartment.  A broken camera sits below a large photo of a car race crash captured as it happened, and up close by the photographer.  There are other framed black and white photos of different action subjects (massive fire, car accident victim, military zone, an explosion).  Jeff takes risks to get his shot.  A framed negative of a woman’s portrait sits next to a Life magazine, where a photo from that negative adorns the cover.  Jeff is also marketable as a 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?

 

I don’t necessarily feel like a voyeur from watching the opening scene.  Rather, I am the movie viewer, and that fact justifies that what I am observing is allowed.  I don’t initially have the sense that I am intruding on these people’s lives. 

 

Because I've watched this film before, I know that later the movie viewer will also see things from Jeff’s POV through his telephoto camera lens while sitting in his wheelchair.  Seeing the apartments from Jeff’s vantage point, framed within a telephoto camera lens, does start to elicit a sense of spying on the neighbors, and being confined to a wheelchair as an immobile spectator.  I start seeing things the way they play in Jeff's mind, and I react as he does.  I'm not supposed to be looking in these apartments, yet I cannot stop myself.

 

 

4.    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.  The set is magnificent, especially knowing the care and minute details that went into creating it so it would be like an actual complex of apartments (complete with running water and electricity). The apartments are small, but the windows are large, presenting a clear view of each apartment.  The viewer has full visual access to all that goes on inside.  The camera work is classic Hitchcock from the slow, panning shots around the buildings and the courtyard, to the POV shots that increase our investment in what a regular guy, who’s just sitting around looking out his window, sees and ultimately suspects.

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I feel like the opening scene was, yes, giving us Jeff's future POV... But, most importantly, I felt as while we were going through Jeff's window, it was like someone was opening a door to us...or like the curtain was rising on a stage. We were being "let in" to the courtyard and apartments as if we were being shown that this is where the story plays out.

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Just about everything we need to know about L.B. Jeffries is in just a few short minutes. It is the viewer's vantage point, as we have become voyeurs, whether we want to or not. We see it is a brand new day with the neighbors all preparing for their day; the couple sleeping outside, Miss Torso getting dressed (GASP! Topless with her back turned to the camera!) and doing leg stretches while getting ready, a cat prowling around.

 

Another reason we know it's hot is from sweat on Jeff's forehead followed by a glance at the thermometer.

 

The writing on Jeff's cast; the busted camera; the first image of a crashing car is probably how he ended up breaking his leg. We see he is quite the accomplished photographer. We also see a negative image of a girl and then the finished image of a model; is this how he sees women?

 

We become voyeurs helplessly; Hitch has us sucked in and we cannot get out....or do we want to get out after what we see?

 

The fact that Hitch built a tenement apartment complex is miraculous enough to make Rear Window his most cinematic, down to the birds flying around the buildings.

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1.  The opening camera shot reminded me a bit of Peter Pan flying through a window.  We start from inside the apartment, but since L.B. is asleep, this is an objective viewer's POV, and it moves over the window sill and out into the courtyard.  The movement of the camera mimics a person's eye movements when taking it all in.  We start with the music studio on the right and then move up and left to reveal all the other apartments and get a sense of who the players in this drama will be.  I like how Hitchcock comes back to the apartment and we see Jimmy Stewart, and then he goes outside again.  If I didn't know better, I would have thought someone was in the apartment with L.B. Jefferies, and it was their viewpoint.

 

2.  The thermometer shows how hot it is, which justifies why the windows are thrown open and why everyone else's windows are open for us to see in.  Stewart is in his pajamas, so we know he's confined (or sick).  We see the cast, so that also indicates that he's either been stuck here for a long time or he WILL be stuck here for a long time.  We learn about his job by seeing the smashed camera and the action photos (and apparently the photo he took just before the accident), and then we move on to the negative of a woman in a frame (could that mean he's negative on women at this point in his life?  Yeah, that's probably a stretch), and finally the magazine with her photo on the cover.  Very easy to figure out he's an action photographer who works for the magazine. 

 

3.  I did feel a bit like a voyeur, but at the same time, everyone (except for the newlyweds) had their windows open and the blinds up, so what they are doing is out there for all to see.  Of course, you're going to watch -- they're practically inviting you in, although they would likely not see it that way. 

 

4.  I thought visually the film was the most theatrical of Hitchcock's films (not in an over the top way, but in a way where you're seated in the theatre and watching the show).  You see what goes on from a distance, and it's only when L.B. Jefferies picks up that phallic telephoto lens that you get a little closer.  If you're sitting in a theatre, you're in a static position, and you have to use binoculars to get closer.  The window frame acts as the proscenium.  So I differ from this being his most cinematic -- he would have broken with more conventions if it were cinematic.  I agree with other posters who though Vertigo was more cinematic.  I had never seen Rear Window until a few years ago, and I've watched it several times since.  I always have the same feeling about it being like we're in a theater and watching with the director.

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1.  The opening camera shot reminded me a bit of Peter Pan flying through a window.  We start from inside the apartment, but since L.B. is asleep, this is an objective viewer's POV, and it moves over the window sill and out into the courtyard.  The movement of the camera mimics a person's eye movements when taking it all in.  We start with the music studio on the right and then move up and left to reveal all the other apartments and get a sense of who the players in this drama will be.  I like how Hitchcock comes back to the apartment and we see Jimmy Stewart, and then he goes outside again.  If I didn't know better, I would have thought someone was in the apartment with L.B. Jefferies, and it was their viewpoint.

 

2.  The thermometer shows how hot it is, which justifies why the windows are thrown open and why everyone else's windows are open for us to see in.  Stewart is in his pajamas, so we know he's confined (or sick).  We see the cast, so that also indicates that he's either been stuck here for a long time or he WILL be stuck here for a long time.  We learn about his job by seeing the smashed camera and the action photos (and apparently the photo he took just before the accident), and then we move on to the negative of a woman in a frame (could that mean he's negative on women at this point in his life?  Yeah, that's probably a stretch), and finally the magazine with her photo on the cover.  Very easy to figure out he's an action photographer who works for the magazine. 

 

3.  I did feel a bit like a voyeur, but at the same time, everyone (except for the newlyweds) had their windows open and the blinds up, so what they are doing is out there for all to see.  Of course, you're going to watch -- they're practically inviting you in, although they would likely not see it that way. 

 

4.  I thought visually the film was the most theatrical of Hitchcock's films (not in an over the top way, but in a way where you're seated in the theatre and watching the show).  You see what goes on from a distance, and it's only when L.B. Jefferies picks up that phallic telephoto lens that you get a little closer.  If you're sitting in a theatre, you're in a static position, and you have to use binoculars to get closer.  The window frame acts as the proscenium.  So I differ from this being his most cinematic -- he would have broken with more conventions if it were cinematic.  I agree with other posters who though Vertigo was more cinematic.  I had never seen Rear Window until a few years ago, and I've watched it several times since.  I always have the same feeling about it being like we're in a theater and watching with the director.

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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 think he is showing us the setting more so than the characters. We can see the minor characters but we don't really know their story yet. I think he is showing us our vantage point from the windows, what the possibilities are. Life.

 

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 face first in the general pan. Then it comes back to show a wheelchair then the leg obviously broken. As we enter his home when can see film equipment and many pictures. We can assume he has taken them because he has a negative framed.

 

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 didn't feel like a voyeur at this point in the movie. It feels like we are being introduced to the neighborhood. We don't really know who is the main character until we see Jeff's face. Since he is up close we know he is the important main character.

 

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

 

I haven't seen the entire film but I do believe it is cinematic. It seems larger than life. I kind of feel like it is Hitchcock looking back on his career and the neighbors are his past movies. We get a closer look at Jeff because that is his current movie.

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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 say that Hitchcock is trying to have the POV shots explore the environs that can be seen from Jeff's apartment with each of us realizing as the shot continues that the vantage point is ours. We are the "watchers"!

 

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?

       ​Without any pertinent lines of dialogue, we learn the backstory that Jeff is immobile and in a wheelchair; we learn that he is an action photographer by profession; we learn that he has taken some very famous / exciting photos; we learn that he also takes portrait photos and that some of them have been used on a "Life" type magazine's covers; we learn that the negative he has blown up must be someone special to him since she is on one of the covers; we learn that he may have been injured due to attempting an exciting photo as evidenced by the destroyed camera that he has kept as a reminder.

 

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 know that Dr. Edwards has tried to not use "Voyeurism" to describe Jeff and us so I will  use the terms "spectator", "watcher", "viewer" and yes even "peeping Tom" to describe how we feel as this scene unfolds. The funniest feeling is that we are not only seeing what Jeff sees but we also see Jeff and his apartment ! We are watching the watcher! We get the sense of wanting to know more about each resident that we see. We want to know who they are, what makes them tick, what is their relationship with the others around them and we also want to learn the full story on Jeff!

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

       I am afraid that I can't disagree with Hitchcock. If he believes "Rear Window" to be his most cinematic film then it is.

 

Note to watchers (viewers): ​Watch for Hitchcock's cameo. Hint: ​Think clock repairman and composer's apartment.

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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?

 

It seems to me that Hitchcock is setting up the environment of the film. The point of view is from Jeff's window because he is being pointed out as the protagonist, even though his back is to the window. We see two shots of him during the opening reinforcing this idea. The second time we get a full body shot of him with his cast, so we know that since the camera has focused on him twice, everything we see from then on is from his point of view since he can't leave his wheel chair.

 

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?

 

First of all, we see that it's hot, from the sweat on his face to the shot of the thermometer. In the shot of his apartment, we see his photographic kit, with the compass, the photographs he's taken on the walls and on the magazine. All but the last picture of the girl on the magazine, are action pictures. The car wreck, the bomb exploding, and others. Perhaps the last photo of the woman is a foreshadowing that his girlfriend, Lisa, is involved in the fashion industry.

 

 

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 live in the country, so what it makes me think of is that privacy is nonexistent in the city. Someone is always, potentially, watching your every move. When I lived in the city, I blocked that fact out and just went about my business as if no one cared what I was doing. For the most part that is probably true, unless you are confined to a wheel chair with a broken leg for seven weeks. Then you might take an interest in your neighbors even if you aren't an action photographer. I think it's interesting that throughout the movie, Jeff watches his neighbors, but doesn't think to protect his own privacy when Lisa goes to Thorwald's apartment to get the ring. He doesn't turn out the lights to protect himself and his nurse.

 

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

 

When I think of the word cinematic, I think of wide open spaces and gorgeous vistas. But in this case, the entire world of the movie is available to be viewed from Jeff's windows. So in that respect, I guess I would agree with Hitchcock. 

 

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1. In the opening camera shot of Rear Window Hitchcock is giving the audience some knowledge regarding the characters and setting without the use of dialogue. It is shot from the vantage point of the omniscient audience. The audience is let in on some things that even Jeff doesn't see because his back is to the courtyard and he is sleeping. The audience can see all in this shot, as opposed to the rest of the movie where we see everything from Jeff's point of view.

2. We learn a great deal about Jeff from this opening shot. We learn that he lives in a studio apartment that backs on a courtyard. He is confined to a wheel chair because of a broken leg. He has a dry sense of humor, based on the writing on his cast. As the camera pans around the room, we can see that he is a photographer, based on the cameras, equipment and photos. We also can infer how his leg was broken based on the race car crash photo and broken camera. The audience also sees a photo for a magazine cover of a beautiful woman. This also gives us an indication of how Jeff and Lisa met, perhaps when he was photographing her for the magazine cover (of course we don't meet Lisa till a bit later in the film).

3. This scene does make me feel like a voyeur. Surprisingly its not looking into the apartments of the neighbors that makes me feel the most voyeuristic, it is when the camera begins peering into that private world in Jeff's apartment. It is when we examine his belongings and himself closely that I feel most voyeuristic.

4. I would agree that Rear Window is Hitchcock's most cinematic film. It is all about what Jeff/we can see. We learn nothing about the crime via dialogue, it is all based on what is viewed. Rear Window is #1 on my list of favorite Hitchcock films.

 

As a side note: Can I just say that the score for Rear Window is one of the best in films? I love the combination of original music with well known standards. This reflects the collaborative approach Hitchcock took to film making. The jazz music at the very beginning is wonderful. It has such an urban feel to it, and it really helps cement the city apartment setting of the film.

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