Moving Movie Night
So the other night I’m at my son‘s K-12 with a group of high school students screening Rear Window. What a great time! First, the film is awesome. It’s in my top ten. Second, the kids were amazing. They were seeing all this deep stuff in the film and were relating it to their own experiences. They picked up on the mid century production codes and appreciated how Hitch worked through them with innuendo.
They got Jimmy Stewart. Stewart’s ability to shape shift from "aw shucks" out west characters to savvy, jaded, urban types is pretty cool. And the group understood why he became the quintessential and versatile American male film performer of the 20th century.
And Grace Kelly. The smarts, the poise, the essence. When she walks into the film her entrance is always followed be a sharp intake of breath from the seats.
There are are thousands of things you can say about this work of cinema art. But my experience was made so much better by watching teenagers eat up every crumb of the McGuffin.
Hitch locks the camera in one small studio apartment for 7/8 of the film, about an hour and a half, and creates a cinematic masterpiece of suspense. We all zoned, riveted to the choreographed shots and sounds, trying to outguess the characters. Boring? No!
Phones rested quietly in pockets. Vibrations ignored. The "video game" was playing on the big screen and the Hitch master was thumbing the controller. Raymond Burr - the future Perry Mason & Ironside - a potential villain? Thelma Ritter, her beautiful best self, the mouthy nurse full of grit and advice. Ross Bagdasarian, the sad sack composer and real life1960s creator of Alvin & The Chipmunks. The young Miss Torso. A hodgepodge cast playing characters with their own stories with the story.
The secondary characters are far more interesting than the principals. And that's the point of the movie. What a big POV film. The kids made a big deal about this. They realized that these characters and their individual stories were sharpened on Alfred's workbench.
I told them before the film fade up that the camera never leaves the room - my impression from 5 or 6 viewings. At the end I apologized because the camera does the leave the studio in the last act. I told them that I wasn't sure why. Then the inimitable Mr. Weissman, the performing arts teacher and leader of this band of cinephiles, remarked, "The camera left the room when Jimmy Stewart did!"
Yes! A chorus of bobbing heads. They all got it. I didn't...until now. That's the cool part of watching a film in a theater with friends, You always learn something new, No matter how obvious.
I can't wait for the next screening.