This post is my entry for the Hitchcock Blog-a-Thon hosted by The Film Vituperatem as well as the next installment of my personal canon: "movies i think about when i think about the movies"
Alfred Hitchcock served as auteur-theory training wheels for me. I doubt I'm alone in this. Perhaps it's the confines of his chosen genre that throw his presence into such unmistakable relief. Or maybe it's his celebrity, cultivated through that famous profile, press-baiting soundbites, celebrated fetishes, and television fame. But what it comes down to is this: When watching a Hitchcock film, even uneducated moviegoers, even movie-loving children can wake up suddenly to the notion of the man behind the curtain. Movies do not merely exist. They are built. The realization can be thrilling: Someone is actually choreographing this whole spectacle for my amusement!
And on the subject of choreography I give you Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. I gave myself Rope, actually, it being the first Hitchcock I sought on my own as a budding film fanatic. 'Let's see what else this man behind the curtain, this wizard, can do.' In this case what he could do was quite a lot. Though Rope obviously represented a complex coordinated puzzle for the filmmaking team, the plot is unusually simple. Two former prep school mates kill a third for the thrill of it (this is no spoiler, just the opening scene). They chase their "perfect murder" with a cocktail party to which they've invited the victim's loved ones.
The film's claim to fame for whatever meager fame it has managed --and I'd argue that that's disproportionate to the elaborately perverse buffet it serves up as well as its pivotal place in the director's career (first color film, first post-fame failure, second attempt at a confined space thriller, a form which would reap perfection for the auteur on his third attempt: Rear Window, 1954) -- comes from Hitchcock's formal experimentation. For Rope he uses one camera, one set and only nine actors. And then, here's the famous part: He films it all in one continuous shot. Or thereabouts --there are five or six noticeable edits (and a few more I'm told) but why quibble? Jimmy Stewart's reliably grounding charisma aside, Hitchcock is Rope's true movie star and Rope's continuous shot is the mythmaking close-up. It just happens to be stretched across the entire 80 minutes.
Read the rest ...
for more on the power of the uninterrupted camera shot and the queer baiting antics of Rope.