Movie seasons come in waves. Movie moods come in waves. I'm not talking about summer being blockbuster season or the winter being awards bait. I'm talking about movies that make seasonal sense to watch during certain times of year.
I want to address the best summer movies. Movies that are about long days and about living for night.
Today's entry concerns Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 voyeuristic mystery-thriller, REAR WINDOW.
Rear Window makes you paranoid and stir crazy in a summer without air conditioning
Set over the course of a hot summer week, Rear Window stages Jimmy Stewart as Jeff, a photographer with a broken leg. He's laid up with a view of his apartment's courtyard where all the cast of neighbors have their own windows open to keep cool. Going stir crazy and with nothing else to do with his camera lenses, he turns his sights to his surroundings.
To put it one way, Rear Window is like if the Internet only had 30 people, and Jimmy Stewart was the NSA of the entire thing with nothing else to do.
The film traps you in the apartment with Jeff and his voyeurism. This is a remarkable, claustrophobic way to orient the film because as a film viewer, guess where you already are? Sitting, and trapped with nothing to do but watch. You, the viewer, like Jeff, have nothing to do but look, be curious, and go crazy.
This makes Rear Window one of the best summer movies, leaving you with no choice but to set yourself neck-deep in a murder mystery unfolding.
The murder mystery starts as curiosity. It shows a pair of neighbors, husband and wife, disagreeing about something, then an outcome: the husband is cleaning a knife and a hacksaw. Jeff notices all of this, but he nodded off and missed why the husband might've been cleaning the tools.
Now he knows he has to be more vigilant. The audience is told this, too. We all have to look harder. This feeling escalates. Escalation is vital in the best summer movies. Jeff turns from curious to desperate. He arranges to meet with the husband. He arranges for his girlfriend to accuse the husband anonymously and search for evidence.
Of course, while Jeff is safe in the apartment, this mission puts his girlfriend in danger, and the audience has to remain with Jeff, only observing. We are Jeff's boredom. At first, it's only observation, then it becomes tense obsession. As the obsession mounts, the audience remains trapped with Jeff, suffering his actions to put others in danger.
Viewing Rear Window in the summer only intensifies the hot days' endlessness. Just as The Thing is best viewed during a blizzard, Rear Window is best viewed during a heatwave.
It's not only one of the all-time greats, Rear Window is one of the best summer movies.