Rope ★★★★

Few things thrill me more than films dominated by their scripts (Steve Jobs, Glengarry Glen Ross, etc...), and Rope is undoubtedly propelled by the stage play that inspired it. The film follows two young men after they strangle their "inferior" classmate, hide his body in a barely veiled chest, and invite his friends and family to a party as a means of challenging the perfection of their crime. The most talked about component of this is Hitchcock's camera work, which is largely a product of the time this was made. It's Hitchcock's first color film, and it's also a pseudo-one shot effort with ten hidden cuts periodically distributed throughout. These two aspects don't contribute to the overall quality of the film much, it's largely just Hitchcock flexing his directorial muscles. But the film itself, aside from this, is quite compelling. Once again, Hitchcock shows that shooting in a single location is by no means an excuse for uninspired direction; constantly switching up angles and character placement to make for a consistently interesting visual style.

My favorite part is the morality under question here, though, as it's represented through three central characters. Rupert (Jimmy Stewart), the chaotic neutral figure, has some truly radical ideas regarding equality and relative value, but never enacts them beyond articulation. Phillip (Farley Granger), obviously somewhat deranged, is something of a blooming moralist who struggles to bury the horrifying act he perpetrated inside himself. And the brilliant Brandon (John Dall), the ice-cold sociopath enacting a rigorous moral coda of intellectual superiority and sadistic games. The dinner party is truly a joy to him, you can see he loves being on the edge of being discovered. Each actor wonderfully embodies these ideas, and by the conclusion of the film all have gone on some sort of journey, with everyone's particular perspective well-defined. The intelligent banter between these men is probably the best part of this.

Rope isn't a masterpiece, but it's a damn fine piece of film that is something of an experiment for Hitchcock, which he himself denounced. It's fun technically on a level I cannot appreciate, but the moralizing about relative worth and the morality of murder is pretty provocative. I kind of wish it went a little darker, and I think Rupert's final actions betray his character somewhat; but this is a great ride that comes in at exactly eighty minutes. A taut and precise will-they-get-caught.

Film # 3/52 in Alfred Hitchcock Marathon
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