Wednesday, November 15, 2006

#99 Rope

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.

Phillip (Farley Granger) and Brandon (John Dall), the guilty homos of Rope !

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.

13 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

Hmm, interesting choice. Not one my favourite Hitchcock films, personally, but it was a very interesting viewing. The homosexual nature of it all was staggering.

Russian Ark is a fascinating film though.

xiayun said...

Would be on my top 100 as well. And when I thought about my all-time top 10 recently, Rear Window still stands at the top.

Anonymous said...

Completely pointless comment- Is it just me, or does the actor who plays Brandon, John Dall, look a little like Ben Affleck?

JA said...

Xiayun, Rear Window is my number one, too. Probably always will be. No other movie makes me so happy; start toi finish, even though I've seen it dozens of times, I am always completely wrapped up in it.

Oh right - Rope! Mmmm Farley Granger (though he's hotter in Strangers on a Train). I haven't watched Rope in like seven or eight years, I need to go back and see it again, but what I remember is being exhilirated by the technique, but a bit bored by the parts of the film. I found myself watching too closely for the edits, and the film did feel stagey to me at points, but same with Lifeboat and Dial M; I think the only enclosed-space film he made that truly doesn't feel like it is Rear Window (and he does take us out of the apartment into that courtyard twice). But I still, as with every Hitch film I've seen, found plenty to appreciate.

SamuraiFrog said...

I adore Rear Window, generally because I tend to love movies about smart people who can actually figure out what's going on. Why is it America's moved so far away from that?

Alfred said...

The gay subtexts become more obvious when you consider that John Dall and Farley Granger were both gay.

Noel Vera said...

Russian Ark was impressive, but Rope, considering what the level of technology was like, is more so.

Tag!

Nick Davis said...

I like the moments when John Dall looks like he wants to eat Farley Granger. Watch the film, and you'll know which ones I mean. There are intense gazes, and then there are intense gazes.

Exciting, witty analysis for the academic types: D.A. Miller's "Anal Rope," available in Diana Fuss' terrific anthology Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories.

Noel Vera said...

Like what you said, by the way, of life being one continuous long shot, and that the best horror films remind us of this fact.

Kamikaze Camel said...

So, it's #99 but you only gave it a B+? Crikies.

NATHANIEL R said...

these aren't the greatest movies of all time. just 100 that mean something most to me.

;) it's very random that way.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh okay, I still took it as meaning that you'd give the movies your highest grade.

Like, there's movies that I know aren't the greatest in the world yet they hit a nerve with me so I give them a high mark and would appear on my list.

The Funk said...

I'm so excited to see this film included on your list. It is my favorite Hitchcock and comes in at #47 on my all-time faves list. The bizarre philosophical discussions on the legalization of murder were such a shocking component for a film of that era, and Jimmy Stewart is fantastic in one of his lesser-known but most compelling roles.