Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #14: Here Lie the Broken Bones of L.B. Jefferies (Opening Scene of Rear 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 shot seems like a 

 

 

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?

 

He's  sweating from the extreme heat. The smashed camera could have something to do with his broken leg. He likes action photos but also seems to shoot fashion.

 

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?

 

Not really. It just looks like normal activity for a neighborhood.

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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 think Hitchcock is addressing the fact that we are all voyeurs. It is fascinating to watch others go about their daily lives. We the spectator feel that we shouldn't be spying or watching others but we can't help ourselves. 

 

 

 

Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? Visually there aren't any landscapes and I think people tend to associate cinematic with sweeping landscape shots. This film for me, is a visual feast. The colors, the attention to detail, the shots within a shot (binoculars) all just add to how awesome this film is. I do believe it is his most cinematic. 

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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 I feel like a immobile spectator since we have no control over what direction to look at in the scene.  There are different things to look at in scene as the camera peers into the apartments but generally we will notice any action that is going on (ie the cat walking, the man shaving etc.)  Hitch elicits a feeling of curiosity as he peers into the windows and makes me wonder about the different stories of all these different people. 

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In the opening scene of Rear Window, I definitely feel like a voyeur!  You are looking into the private lives (even though their windows are wide open and they are right in front of those windows) of neighbors.  Even when the camera pans to Stewart sleeping in his wheelchair, you feel as though you are imposing, watching something very private as the camera sweeps around to his photographs.  It's like a train wreck, though.  You feel like you are watching something very private, but yet you can't seem to turn away, wanting to see more.  This is a film I've seen dozens of times, my absolute favorite...probably because it's the first Hitchcock film I saw, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  I totally agree that this is his most cinematic film.  It's very big and grand, including the audience in this voyeuristic experience right from the opening scene!

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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?

 

This establishing camera shot opens up a contained world of apartments all backing up on an interior courtyard.  In the Hitchcock world of film, it is a "slice of life", being lived by the various inhabitants with their own joys, problems, and, idiosyncrasies.  Most of them are concerned with their own lives and routines, but we, as the audience, are peering through the rear window of an apartment, and no one  can see us - or, our own problems and peccadilloes.  What an advantage the Peeping Tom has! No one else knows you are looking in at them.  That must be the hook that keeps them Peeping.  I took this opening shot to be the "every man's" vantage point.

 

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 learn that Jeff is incapacitated with a broken leg (hip?) and it pretty much confined to a wheelchair.  As the camera pans around the room/apartment, we observe a smashed up camera; simply framed black and white photos of a car racing accident, a tanker fire, a terrible car accident, and, a bomb explosion; assorted camera/photography paraphernalia;  and, finally, the cover to a fashion magazine with a beautiful model on it - as well as a framed negative of that model shot.  With that non-verbal opening, we can deduce that it's a really hot and muggy day and Jeff is a world class news photographer who is currently not on the job due to injuries.

 

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'm not sure what a voyeur feels, but this opening scene made me very curious about what's behind the curtains.  I will admit, that when I'm walking in my neighborhood, or, anywhere, really, I will look in the windows and think I can learn something about the people who live behind the front doors.  In my mind, it's like window shopping.  This is maybe a common feeling among all humans, or most of us, anyway.  Hitchcock elicits interest and curiosity in me, but not prurient interest.  I think that feeling would be more like that of a voyeur.  Also, I couldn't help but notice the cat that's prancing up the stairs.  Was he/she also a curious?

 

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 seen the entire film, and would wholeheartedly agree that this film is his most cinematic.  He pulls out all the stops with the cast, story, music, color, wide-screen format, and lush cinematography. He takes advantage of the medium - to the best effect.

Hitchcock certainly does pull out all the stops.  How can you not be drawn in immediately from the very opening scene?

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1. That there is a whole world out there with many little sub-plots: the composer shaving in his apartment, the couple sleeping in the balcony, Miss Torso having a shower, the cat in the courtyard, the milkman leading us into the main street. Hitch pans the camera across the whole scene and thereby introduces us to what is going to be Jeff's world for the next few hours.

 

2. The camera shots show the audience where Jeff lives, in a New York apartment facing a courtyard and another building in front full of neighbours in residence. It also informs us without any dialogue that he's a photographer as it shows the war and action photography around his room. It then also shows us a negative of a lady's photo with some fashion magazines next to it implying that he doesn't just take gritty photos but does some fashion shoots too or has some connection to someone who is involved in the fashion world. Hitch also shows us that something has gone wrong with the broken camera, that Jeff has had an accident and is in a cast and that it's extremely hot in his apartment. Perfect visual design in this scene!

 

3. Yes, you feel as if you're in the room watching these people carrying out their most intimate business (eg Miss Torso having a shower), It's almost creepy but arouses your curiosity. However it's surprising that Hitch has Jeff lying down sleeping with his back to the window because at first you think that the opening scene is the character's POV. Hitch makes us think it's just where he lives and when you first see the film you have no idea that this scene is going to offer us so much excitement in the next few hours, which in itself makes what follows that much more thrilling. Hitch lulls you into a false sense of security.

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Forgot to add point 4!

 

4. I definitely think this is Hitch's best film and his most cinematic.His attention to visual detail, the props to convey information about the character, all visual with no dialogue in the opening scene, the POV shots of the room as he did in Mr and Mrs Smith tells the audience a lot about the character and the setting.

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We just wear his eyes! We are his lens even though he is relaxing...the interesting part is that we feel that we actually witness what is going on in those apartments!

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1.) The opening camera shot introduces us with the introduction of the tenants in apartments. They are 

Miss Lonelyhearts, the songwriter, Miss Torso, the husband and wife with their dog, sculptor neighbor with hearing aid and the newlywed couple. It is evident that one does not either know them personally  but they are nicknamed so that the audience could know them. The camera then focuses on Jeff and it is through his apartment that we get to know his neighbors.  

 

2.) It is through by camera panning that we come to know how Jeff had his leg injured. At first, we see the sight of his leg cast, then we see the broken camera, along with the photograph of race accident and other photos, a framed negative photograph of a model and finally a pack of fashion magazines with the original photograph from the negative.

 

3.) Well, I was more anxious to know about the hero's leg injury. Yes, by seeing the opposite neighbors doing their routine chores, I felt that I was prying a little bit in others' affairs. (Thanks to this daily dose)*

 

4.) I have to admit it that this is one of the best Hitchcock films. This film had its own share of closeup shots, Point-of-View shots and the Magnum Opus film set. Even, some of its scenes had elements of Silent Film Era.

 

https://media.giphy.com/media/jYFIKD8IIUDXq/giphy.gif

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Daily Dose #14: Here Lie the Broken Bones of L.B. Jeffries, Title Design Opening Scene of Rear Window (1954)

 

I love this movie. It’s a masterpiece, maybe his key work, but also competes with so many other masterpieces from the man. I’ve seen it many times, using it in a film club I teach to middle school students. They enjoy it every time, and lay aside their cell phones for two hours, with their social media, the logical progression of the world predicted in Rear Window.

 

The opening scene establishes the set as a real world, quotidian, natural, with a cat, not a dog, crossing the courtyard path below, going about its cat business. Birds swoop naturally across the camera’s path and over the courtyard. For a moment it feels like a slice of peaceful daily life in this New York compound. The camera swings around in one long, fluid shot that becomes increasingly dreamlike—there are only two cuts in the scene—and contains so much information. We get a preview of each of the characters and their stories that will be laid out over the course of the film, including the little dog in the alleyway, briefly, like a Hitchcock cameo.

 

The camera swings around to Jeff’s fevered brow, and the room temperature of 94 degrees, close to body temperature and the human condition, suggesting the summer swelter, but his eyes are closed, his back to the window, so also a fevered dream, then explores his psyche as it sweeps over objects that symbolically render his life and milieu. The car crashes and war photo reflect his penchant for danger and proximity to catastrophe, including the immediacy of an actual smashed camera. Was it damaged in the car crash? The photo of the atomic bomb is another reference, alluded to in other Hitchcock films, to the uneasy postwar world, which like the main character, has embraced the entire population and edged everyone next to apocalypse.

 

And the magazines, with the woman on the cover. I don’t quite get that. Who is she? Is it Europe in some way?

 

So we learn much about Jeff, with little dialogue. It’s not his point of view, since he is asleep with his back to the window, but more like the viewpoint of his sleeping brain. The opening scene encapsulates so much, all visually, and thus portends the most cinematic of Hitchcock’s movies, which will utilize the camera to it’s fullest potential. One of the few un-cinematic statements in this scene is the inscription on the cast: “Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jeffries, a perfect title for the strewn images of his psyche and the way the director intends to smash the bone structure of cinema in the film to come.

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This is in response to the question asked during Fan Panel #1 during Chris Sturhann's presentation of "In-jokes in 'Rear Window'."  The question was "What does the 'L.B.' in Jimmy Stewart's character's name, L.B. Jefferies. Of course, we don't know since everybody calls him "Jeff." However, since Chris made the point that Hitchcock had Raymond Burr purposely made up to resemble David. O. Selznick as an in-joke, I would posit that the "L.B." stands for "Louis Burt" in another in-joke about Selznick's father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer. It would be yet another dig at another controlling studio head.

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