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Rope (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on December 4, 2012

Is ignorance bliss?  I remember the first time I saw this movie.  I was just out of college.  I had a part-time job with a lot of spare time on my hands, and a video store a block away.  I went through a period where I watched a bunch of Hitchcock at once.  The world wide web at that time was barely anything, and I didn’t even have a home computer.  So I had read nothing about it, and knew nothing about its “real time” presentation.  I don’t think it even registered at the time, and probably didn’t even occur to me until years later.

Now I watch and can’t help keeping an eye out for those “seamless” cuts between reels, sometimes noting how clumsy and obvious they seem.  Here I am caring about something — even being bothered by it — that once upon a time I never even noticed.  Does this make me a “smarter” consumer of film?  Shall I pat myself on the back for being so attuned to the gimmick and how it’s pulled off?  Or should I lament the loss of some certain innocence, possessing a knowledge that may hamper my appreciation of the movie more than enhance it?

But there are benefits, too.  I notice and enjoy the craftsmanship that the younger me didn’t, touches that are masterful.  The way the camera stays on Edith Evanson clearing the dishes, it doesn’t flinch as the ugly truth in that chest comes perilously close to being revealed.  Or the kitchen door swinging open and just at that moment John Dall drops the rope into the kitchen drawer.  How many rehearsals did that take?  Or the camera following the path of the murder as Stewart narrates it, the way he imagined it happened?

Despite being annoyed with my brain for being too focused on those cuts, I still get a kick out of this movie.  It’s one of Granger’s better performances, and Dall is terrific, stammering as he gets excited.  Stewart is great too, but his character is the weak point of the story to me.  Is this really the first time something has challenged his belief in the Nietzschean philosophies he’s been casually spouting for years?  He didn’t think to follow that train of thought this far before?  His character doesn’t add up, he feels so much like a convenient construction… one that’s torn down and rebuilt far too easily.  It confuses the story’s commentary on the fascist mindset.

But Stewart is always a joy to watch and listen to nonetheless, and the film’s charms lie in its carefully plotted suspense and cat-and-mouse dialogue (“But which is the cat and which is the mouse?”).   Rating: Very Good (83)


10 Responses to “Rope (rewatch)”

  1. jeffro517 said

    Hitchcock was a master of visual communication. His use of blues, grays, and greens was genius throughout the film. I am also a huge, and I mean HUGE fan of Jimmy Stewart, so this is a favorite. Thanks for a fun review! It’s interesting how different films look over time. Here’s my review of the same movie:

  2. Anonymous said

    this is well written review of movie I will have to see again. I love the comments about ignorance and which is better. I think probably both are good given your maturity as consumer. To think that you didn’t even have home computer is really sweet too.

    • Now that I think about it, I must have still had my dinky Amiga from college. But it certainly wasn’t hooked up to the internet (it would have been 1994, not many people had internet at home) pretty much all I used it for was games and music. It certainly changes the way you look at things, having a wealth of information seconds away at all times.

  3. Anonymous said

    Oh…and that comment was from me…DO TARRRRR

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  5. Louise said

    I think it probably is the first time he’s had to really about the consequences of his views. He’s used to being the smartest guy in the room, a well-loved teacher to a group to adolescent boys who worship him and accept unconditionally everything he says. No-one will have challenged him to think about the real-life consequences before.

    I’m a massive James Stewart fan, but for me this was John Dall’s film.

    • That’s an acceptable explanation, but it still doesn’t ring true to me. Maybe the character needs to be fleshed out more… we don’t know much about his social habits, how long he’s been teaching, et cetera. Thank you for commenting!

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