Library Classic Theater: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope”

So a while back I was going to make a current list of my “Wall of Shame” movies, which is to say, the movies I haven’t seen but any film-buff should. That came and went. For the past year or so I have been diving into these classics like North by Northwest and recently Citizen Kane. I regret not reviewing them right after, but as we all know there is already enough written about these revered classics already, so my comments would be a drop in the barrel. Despite that, I decided to take on the commitment to refine my writing skills and movie knowledge and plunge into the films that should be seen by someone like me. Movies like Gone with the Wind, Seven Samurai, City Lights, The Good, Bad and the Ugly (and the other two in the “Man with No Name trilogy”) and, Spartacus, and 12 Angry Men are all old classics that I need to expose myself to. Along with new classics that I haven’t felt compelled to watch like Gladiator, Braveheart, American Beauty, Gangs of New York, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Casino, Stand By Me, and Schindler’s List also deserve my attention. So, as long as I have what I would deem a “Classic” I’ll watch and review here. Although I can get movies from Netflix or FYE, I’ll try to limit my selections to my local libraries. Hence the title. James Stewart in Rope

For my first classic of choice is a movie that isn’t as popular of films by one of the most famous auteurs of our time. Rope is Alfred Hitchcock’s first movie to be filmed in Technicolor and one of his most unique movies on how it was staged and filmed. The scene is set with two friends killing an unknown man with a single piece of rope and hiding him in an unseemly coffin sized chest. The two, a courageous Brandon and cowering Philip, bask in their perfect murder A dinner for the deceased is already arranged for his friends and as they arrive and converse around the hidden corpse. As the night proceeds, the two, who rationalize their murder because they feel “superior” to the victim, leave breadcrumbs for Rupert (James Stewart) to pick up to their demise.

What I found especially fascinating from the beginning was the length of the shots. When I noticed that they Hitchcock wasn’t allowing the viewer to blink with the movie, I couldn’t help but to look up how long each shot was. It turns out that there were 10 shots in total ranging from ten to four minutes. Hitchcock was definitely ahead of his time, as the long take has become a daring and ambitious move in modern cinema.

Along with the length of each shot was the camera movement. Hitchcock probably used Steadicam to move in and out of the flat set. This created an interactive eye for the viewer to help us feel right in the action; perhaps sipping down champagne with the hosts and guests.

Even though it felt like a production that any talented High School drama department could put together, it doesn’t diminish the impressive performances by the cast, especially the eminent James Stewart. The action is all dialouge, so it was vital to get those stellar performances from his actors, perticularly since the shots were several minutes long.

Suspense should be Hitchcock’s middle name. By giving us the information that only a select amount of characters only know creates a dramatic irony with our protagonists, Which also calls into question of who are the protagonists and antagonists? A protagonist is someone who ignites the action through choice and has a goal we can root for. Although Brandon and Philip makes an awful choice to kill one of their peers, we surely don’t want them to get away with it. Hitchcock shakes up the common narrative structure.

Rope is a simple suspenseful drama that holds our attention and keeps us on our toes. If you’re looking for a master at work, get a hold of Rope.

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