Windows ★★★

"Windows" was the first movie to be released in the 1980s, but its experimental, meandering nature belongs more to the 1970s. It is one of those movies where you see people doing things and think to yourself "Why is he/she doing that??", like when recent sexual assault victim Talia Shire suddenly realizes she's riding in a cab driven by the man who broke into her apartment and raped her at knifepoint just a few days earlier. She has the driver pull over so she can make a phone call, she gets out of the cab, she calls the police -- and then she gets back in the cab and tries to pretend nothing is wrong. This not what a person would do in real life, nor what any sane police officer would instruct a victim to do, but in the world of "Windows", it makes sense.

What Shire's character, Emily, doesn't realize is that the guy who raped her is just a stooge hired by the real perpetrator, her friendly neighbor Andrea, played by Elizabeth Ashley, who has a growing sexual fascination for Emily. We can't imagine why, because Shire plays Emily as skittish and aloof, and "Windows" doesn't keep this a secret for very long, either, so what could have been a satisfying plot twist is treated in a matter-of-fact way. Whatever her intentions, Andrea is frustrated when Emily doesn't rush into her arms for comfort, not even after she conveniently defends Emily when the rapist returns to attack her again. Emily has rented a new apartment overlooking the Hudson, and Andrea (who apparently is endowed with limitless wealth) has acquired a brownstone across the river, where she spies on Emily using a very expensive looking high powered telescope. Andrea's plan goes even more awry when Emily begins dating a detective (Joe Cortese) investigating her case.

Award winning cinematographer Gordon Willis is out of his element in the director's chair, but at least the movie looks stunning. Incredible low light sequences are like paintings come to life, and the film is filled with breathtaking vistas of New York -- which, by the way, you'd think was the quietest place on Earth if you judge by this movie's whispered dialogue and lengthy silences. The lack of excitement in the film makes it a very strange, funereal experience, especially during the climax of the story, where Andrea holds Emily captive in her brownstone and threatens her with a knife. What should be a very tense confrontation turns into a series of closeups of two women whispering things to each other in near darkness.

This unconventional approach ends up making the film memorable, but it's not exactly an audience pleaser, either. It's best enjoyed as a visual experience, and by anyone with an appreciation for the bizarre.