Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rope (1948)

Beefing on Hitchcock

Two young men strangle to death a friend of theirs as a form of intellectual social experiment. Having placed the body into a chest in their front room, they two entertain a dinner party of family and friends with conversation about murder and its possible benefit to society. As the party guests, including the deceased's parents and fiance, notice the man's absence, the young men's mentor and professor begins to suspect foul play.

One of Alfred Hitchcock's most bold and inventive films, Rope touches on some rather dark and controversial topics with a lot of the humour and wry wit we typically come to expect from the director. Plenty of tongue-in-cheek dialogue and "poor" timing keeps the audience giggling and groaning while the suspense continues to build.

The characters and setting revolves around the wooden chest containing the dead body, and the dinner party itself is even served off the top of it! There are a few moments of classic suspense as the chest is almost opened, or as the murderers nearly let their secret slip.

Although the two leads have just committed an act of murder, they still come off as likable and sympathetic characters, and they are consistently upbeat and charming throughout the entire picture. You know they should get what's coming to them, but at the same time you almost don't actually want them to get caught.

Jimmy Stewart plays an unlikely role as their professor, from whom the two gained their misguided understanding of the propriety of murder. As the dinner party mingles on, he takes a rather silent spot in the background, visibly assessing the actions and reactions of his former pupils. Watching him suss things out as he hopes his suspicions are incorrect is one of the most intriguing parts of this film.

Shot in seven-to-ten minute segments, Rope was edited to come off as one continuous shot, creatively cutting in the shadows of someone's back or on a still and empty frame. This and the nearly single-roomed location help give the movie the feeling of a stage play. Everything about this production shows a director who is finally free of reigns and is more than happy to experiment and explore his creativity.

While it isn't typically popular as one of Hitchcok's "classics," Rope definitely fits the bill. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see the best of Hitchcock. I might even go to call the film nearly perfect... I will enjoy watching this picture over and over again.

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