Rear Window  Or the great Hitchcock

The other day I suddenly saw Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” on FTP and came down to watch it. Although I have seen very few films about him, I still like Hitchcock’s films very, very much in connection with the previous ones I have seen, such as “Butterfly Dreams”, “Dr. Edward” and “North by Northwest”. As we all know, he showed his face in all 35 of his films, so it became a pleasure to watch Hitchcock’s films and try to find his figure. For example, I’m not sure about “Rear Window”, but ms saw his silhouette in the composer’s party. There is an article called “Guess how fat Hitchcock is” that is quite funny and teases the director’s addiction to theater.

This “Rear Window” is one of the highest ranked Hitchcock films in IMDB (ranked 13), and should be considered the most popular film that most people have seen and liked. For it, the most people associated with it is “voyeurism”. I remember a film teacher once said, “If you see a film about murder, level one; see a film about voyeurism, level two; see a film about love; level three, see a film from disorder to order, is the highest level.” Indeed, Hitchcock’s success lies not only in the story he tells, but also in the way he tells it. From the beginning of the conflict to the end of the calm and orderly, he put a murder mystery little by little, and all this happens only from a room window radiating outward within 100 meters, and the main character’s range of activity is almost static leaning against the window, which is a test of a director’s storytelling ability and filming skills Oh.

While watching this movie, I thought of several interesting questions:1, Hitchcock on the morality of “voyeurism”If this is a film about “voyeurism”, the great Hitchcock is a very thorough look. Voyeurism is a psychological instinct that every human being has. Freud believed that voyeurism satisfies the subconscious needs of the human mind. People get sexual satisfaction by doing so. Freud’s “pansexuality” is involved here, so this sex is not simply the sex of the reproductive function. (There are many examples of this in movies, the most famous one being the TV short “Love Story” by Kieslowski and its film adaptation, which is also my favorite haha) Hitchcock was a director who was deeply influenced by Freudian psychology, and many of his films attempted to analyze the causes of the characters and plots through Freudian psychological analysis (especially dream analysis). When Freudian psychology was taught in undergraduate psychology classes, it was “Dr. Edward” that was used as an example to analyze. So in this movie, Hitchcock also used his kind of carefully arranged, cleverly set up shots to show such a philosophy. He arranged the main character to spy on a good scene played in a window of the opposite building, by spying on other people’s lives to spend their own days. So that we can see that no one can escape the temptation of peeping and the embarrassment of being peeped, it is a very thorough analysis of human nature. When the protagonist unwittingly discovers a murder case during his voyeurism, the immoral act of voyeurism seems to become less immoral here. In a country where everyone has privacy, voyeurism seems to be immoral compared to murder, but here, voyeurism becomes a moral opposite of immorality through the discovery of murder. So where, I ask, is the line between the two? As early as ancient Greece, Aristotle had already begun to explore this question in his ethics, “Virtue lies primarily in the avoidance of sin”, so morality is linked to the good, but not exactly the same as the good. So what is moral and what is immoral? The term “immoral” has a very narrow scope of application. For example, we know that a weak will is not immoral, so is it immoral for a young and strong person to beg? There are many such examples in life. Is suicide immoral? There are many people who would argue. Perhaps one explanation for this issue here is that voyeurism is essentially judged to be an immoral act, but since it brings far less evil than murder, it is not such an immoral act. The line between morality and immorality is always an interesting topic of debate in ethics. And in Hitchcock’s films, morality has always been the object of his play.

2. The film semiotics of “peeping”

I think in this film, Hitchcock’s mastery lies in the essence of the film. Christian Matz said that on the one hand, movies satisfy people’s desire to voyeurism, and on the other hand, they satisfy people’s desire to dream. We can also use the following simple theoretical framework to deconstruct the process of film viewing: active/passive, subject/object, watching/being watched. (Of course, any dichotomy is a trap in the eyes of deconstructionists.) This theory of cinema is heavily influenced by the structuralist psychoanalytic theory of Lacan, who in turn was a disciple of Freud’s mantle. On the one hand, says Metz, cinema is the nudist, and the viewer is the voyeur, with the desires of both trapped in a permanent exchange of two purposes: active/passive, subject/object, seeing/being seen. On the other hand, the film is not the nudist; I am looking at it, but it does not see that I am looking at it, or it knows that I am looking at it, but it does not want to know this fact. “It is this fundamental denial that introduces all classical cinema into the path of the story, which ruthlessly erases its inferential basis and creates it, at best, as a beautiful closed object”. Cinema is thus the knower and the unknowing at the same time, but the two are inseparable. When the film is a film, it is a knower, it appears in every film, in the form of discourse behind the fiction; when the film is a film (a story) for this paper, it is an unknower. Thus, when the film is shown, the audience is present and aware of the actor, but the actor is not present and is not aware of the audience. At the time of filming, the actors are present and the audience is absent. Thus, the film manages in such a way to make itself a character that is both nudist and cover-up artist.

In this sense Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” is also a film about cinema. If we discuss it in layers: firstly, we see a film of male and female protagonists through the screen. The second is that the hero sees a movie in the house of each neighbor on the opposite floor through a peephole. Finally, it is the murder movie of a businessman’s house that leads the whole story. In this way, the movie within the movie satisfies our desire to see the movie. In order to tell this story, Hitchcock made a rather long and meticulous preparation at the beginning. It is interesting to note that Hitchcock pushes and pulls the camera closer to shoot a scene in the neighbor’s house by simulating the hero’s subjective point of view. Each window can be seen as a play, the neighbor is zoomed into the middle of the screen, and will be zoomed in and out as the peepers up and down the telescope, the audience is the hero, but also allude to us who watch the film. Thus, in this movie, half of the story is filmed scenes from the life of the neighbors. What I marveled at was Hitchcock’s imagination and creativity, such as the filming of the neighbor’s house across the street, almost in a documentary way, without off-camera voices, where you can vaguely hear the neighbors talking about the topic, and more through their movements and expressions to imagine what is going on. The following from one window to another is a kind of internal montage. We can guess, but at the same time this guessing is accompanied by the reasoning of the male owner at the time to guess, so the audience’s emotions are easily carried by the film, and this is where the magic of Hitchcock comes in. Starting with Eisenstein, the essence of the film’s montage is brought to the fore. Hitchcock’s creativity in montage sets montage here is amazing. When it comes to Hitchcock’s contribution to cinematography, the history of cinema has to be written in a big, big way.

3. About watching old movies

This movie is a 1954 old movie, is also a classic movie. Every time I watch an old movie, I always feel that I am not watching a movie, but watching how to make a movie, some tired. Almost all old movies are a textbook. I remember in my undergraduate film history class, the teacher almost explained to us, frame by frame, classic film textbooks like “General Patton”, “The Graduate” and “Citizen Kane”. For example, how the 10-minute long speech at the beginning of “General Patton” was shot, such as when Orson Welles shot out the fourth wall in “Citizen Kane”, such as how the underwater subjective shots in “The Graduate” were shot, etc. When I went to see the Antonioni Film Festival, I suffered from the headache of watching such a rather experimental film as “Zabriskie Corner”. Such a habit has made watching movies no longer a mere sensual pleasure, but a learning task, which is quite distressing. Movies are fun, and I used to think: if I could see the doorway, how much fun would I lose? If I can clearly determine what the shot is for and what the dialogue is for, how much space do I have left for myself to experience the joy and sorrow that this film will bring me? So at first I resisted all enlightenment, just to keep the empty space inside me. But gradually I realized that if I didn’t know about movies but thought I did, I was still missing out on a lot of fun. What is cinema? Have you ever thought about this question? Whose dream is film? Whose work is it? There are so many people to thank for the success of a film, but where is the sweat they put in, do you see? That’s why it’s much more sensible to watch movies now. Some films are for enjoyment, such as Zhang Yimou’s historical films, which are for entertainment only; while some films are for learning, in terms of film ideology, there are various European films, in terms of film form innovation, there are Bruyère, Antonioni, Truffaut, Hollywood and so on.

Then about Hitchcock’s films, he made a lot of contributions, and later generations have almost learned all of him. Other not to mention, just take the beginning of the not too long ago “Ballad of Clouds and Water” is copied from the beginning of “Rear Window” that slow panning camera of the big panorama.

In the history of cinema, there are several forms of tributes paid by the younger generation to their predecessors:

There are two kinds of very straightforward filmmakers, one is to directly insert a segment of his favorite film of a certain director in his own film, or related to the theme, or even worse, the kind that has nothing to do with the theme, for the purpose of simply expressing his tribute. I was most impressed by Kusturica’s persistent and cute “Elvis” who wanted to be a movie actor in “Arizona Dream”. He always kept imitating the 7-minute long plane chase scene in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” on various occasions, acting seriously and ridiculously. Another kind of straightforward people will remake a classic movie again, which requires a lot of courage, because the classic has always been classicized, to surpass the difficult, otherwise it will only ask for trouble.

The other two types of people are not so straightforward, some slightly “smart” people will hide this admiration, but only to the predecessor of a shooting scenes or shooting techniques used in their own films. This is generally called plagiarism. But it is difficult to identify them, which requires those who have read countless films, memory is amazing, the eyes of the fans. The other kind of person is really smart, and he is the kind of filmmaker who really incorporates the former things into his own works to form his own style. For example, we all know that Hou Hsiao-Hsien said he was deeply influenced by Truffaut and Yasujiro Ozu, but we can’t see the shadows of both in his films, and Hou was able to turn this influence into his own style and became a master.

Well, too much to write, back to Hitchcock. Truffaut said that Hitchcock’s suspenseful movies are also good-looking romantic movies, and his romantic movies are also good-looking suspenseful movies. Therefore, this film is also a pretty good-looking romance movie. This is not the subject I want to talk about, so I won’t go into it again. For his films, whether you like it or not, his films are able to balance business and art and become their own style, that is, they can create a bunch of never-ending discussion topics, that’s why he can be called a master.

Two books are essential for Hitchcock fans: one is Truffaut’s “Hitchcock in Conversation with Truffaut”, as an advocate of “author cinema”, Truffaut is also a director, and it is with this attitude that he admires Hitchcock and elevates him to a very high level; the other is “Don’t Dare to Ask”, edited by Lacan’s student Zizek. If you don’t dare to ask Hitchcock, ask Lacan. Some Hitchcock fans say that when they open this book, all the articles are cattle articles, written by sociologists and philosophers who have nothing to do with cinema, so that they can learn how to write high-end film theory articles. This book is not only of little use to those who practice making movies, but also to those who use movies as entertainment. However, this book reminds us once again that even the most esoteric research must be based on the analysis of film texts, and that the method of close reading is never out of date. So why not see the alternative explanation of the authentic academy as a piece of intellectual entertainment?

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