I resumed working my way through Alfred Hitchcock’s films with one of my favorites, REAR WINDOW (1954). Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) is a globe-trotting news photographer who’s been stuck in his Greenwich Village apartment for weeks with a broken leg. In between visits from his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), a fashion entrepreneur, he passes the time vicariously watching the neighbors on the far side of the apartment-complex courtyard. A middle-aged couple with a pampered dog; the sexy dancer, “Miss Torso”; a sculptor; a couple of newlyweds; a struggling composer; quiet, desperate Miss Lonelyhearts; and a salesman (Raymond Burr) with an ill wife. When the wife disappears, Jeff becomes convinced the salesman murdered her. His cop buddy (Wendell Corey) scoffs; can Jeff, Lisa, and Jeff’s home nurse (Thelma Ritter) prove there’s been a killing?
This works well as a suspense thriller, but also as one of Hitchcock’s romances. Lisa and Jeff are clearly in love, but her business is in NYC; while he could do fashion and local news that’s not what he wants. He’s convinced himself she could never be comfortable traveling with him, there’s no point even trying to make it work — but events come to show she has the stuff of an adventurer in her.
It’s also the story of a small community, reminding me of another of the small town in another of my favorites, Shadow of a Doubt. There are multiple character arcs playing out before Stewart’s eyes, from the depressed Miss Lonelyhearts to Miss Torso fending off wolves (one theory touched on in the special features is that they represent various potential futures for Jeff and Lisa). While most analysis sees this as a film about voyeurism, the book Celluloid Skyline argues it’s about privacy: everyone is comfortable letting their neighbors around the courtyard peer into their lives in ways they wouldn’t be in front of a street-facing window (even Jeff is equally casual about what he lets people see). “That feminine intuition stuff sells women’s magazines but i real life it’s still a fairytale.”
By contrast TO CATCH A THIEF (1955) is pure fluff, though with a Riviera setting, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the lead roles and Jessie Royce Landis as Kelly’s tart-tongued mother, it’s winning fluff. Grant is John “The Cat” Robie, a cat burglar who used his criminals kills for the resistance during WW II. That got him paroled from prison but after a series of burglaries following the Cat’s MO, the French cops are convinced he’s gone back to his old ways. Robie decides the only way to catch the Cat Mark II is to find his next target and intercept him. This brings him into contact with Jessie Stevens (Landis), a gem-dripping widow who thinks he’d make a great match for her daughter Frances (Kelly). Frances, however, knows who John is and sees herself as his partner in crime. Can Robie catch the thief? Can Frances catch her man? It reminds me in some ways of the rom-com thrillers Hitch did in the 1930s such as The 39 Steps, though not as well written. “From where I sit, it looks like you were conjugating some very irregular verbs.”
PEPPERMINT SODA (1977) is a French coming of age story in which two sisters in the 1960s deal with oppressive teachers, jerk boyfriends, Mom taking a lover, the stirrings of sex and a growing awareness of politics. I’ve been wanting to catch this since seeing the sequel, Cocktail Molotov, some years back; while nothing other films haven’t done, this film does it well.
THE CLAUDIA KISHI CLUB (2020) is a 17-minute Netflix documentary on why Asian Baby Sitter Club fans loved Claudia, not only for giving them some representation in the series, but non-stereotypical representation at that (“You’ve no idea how amazing it is for the Asian-American to be the cool one.”).
When I upgraded my iPhone last year I got three months of Apple TV free. I activated it for Come From Away, then went on to watch the first season of Ted Lasso. Ted (Jason Sudeikis) is an upbeat, folksy college football coach recruited to become coach for Richmond, a struggling British soccer team. He doesn’t know the owner, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), hired him in the belief he’d fail: her ex loves the team and seeing it go down in defeat would hurt him (“I want Rupert sodomized with a splintered cricket bat. In and out, again and again.”). Can Ted handle cocksure players, perky girlfriends and local skepticism? The results are funny as hell, though I may postpone watching S2 rather than keep my subscription going.
At my brother’s recommendation I also caught the six-episode SCHMIGADOON! Josh and Melissa (Keegan-Michael Key, Cecily Strong) are two doctors who’ve been in a relationship for a year, but it’s fraying a little. On a hiking trip they stumble into the magical town of Schmigadoon, where people break out spontaneously into song and there’s no way to leave except in the company of your true love. Trouble is, when Josh and Melissa walk away from the town, it won’t let them leave — so does that mean their love’s no good? Can they find true love in town or are they trapped there forever? With a cast that includes Martin Short, Jane Krakowski and Kristen Chenoweth, this references musicals from Carousel to Sound of Music (“Yes, I’m totally a Nazi.”). Great fun though the cliffhanger ending makes me wonder what they have in mind if this makes it to S2. “This place has completely destroyed my concept of the structure of reality because that was a fricking leprechaun!”
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