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Rear Window (1954)

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By the late ’40s, Alfred Hitchcock had made roughly 40 films, and like many great artists, he had become restless in his work. Yearning to stretch the boundaries of a medium he had so clearly mastered, he began what some would call his “experimental phase,” a creative flourish that produced Rope (1948), a film shot in ten long “single takes” to create the illusion of one continuous shot; Dial M for Murder (1954), which dabbled in a 3D technology that allowed Grace Kelly to lift a pair of scissors off the screen; even The Man Who Knew Too Much (1955), where he inserted a Doris Day musical number.

The greatest in this experimental period was, of course, Rear Window. Here, Hitchcock concocted his most original, most challenging concept yet: to create an entire film from one vantage point, the rear window of a Greenwich Village apartment, and in turn, symbolize the very movie-watching experience and director-viewer relationship that made him a legend. Continue reading

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Vertigo (1958)

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There’s a reason Alfred Hitchcock is history’s most respected director among both the critics and the public. It’s because his career epitomizes the essence of this site. The rotund man nimbly walked the tightrope between the academic and the mainstream better than anyone — while so many others looked down and got the spins. He was both a showman and a visionary, making films that celebrate the nail-biting entertainment we love about the movies, yet ones that, upon closer inspection, reveal a deeper understanding of how cinesthetic techniques work wonders on the subconscious. That’s the mark of a true genius.

Now that the dust has settled from all the masterworks — from Psycho to The Birds, Rear Window to Notorious — Hitchcock’s cream has finally risen to the top. When Universal released its “Hitchcock Masterpiece DVD Collection,” Vertigo was the only film to feature the word “Masterpiece” on the cover. When the AFI updated its Top 100 list in 2007, Vertigo leaped 52 spots ahead to No. 9. And when Sight & Sound conducted its latest international critics poll in 2012, Vertigo finally ended Citizen Kane’s 50-year reign as the greatest film of all time. Continue reading

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