A movie for every day of the year – a good one
François Grimaldi takes Monaco, 1297
On this day in 1297, dressed as a monk, François Grimaldi (more properly Francesco, since he was Italian) was admitted to the castle at Monaco. Known as Il Malizia, “the cunning”, Grimaldi’s plan was simple – get inside, open the gates and then let his men rush the guards. This he did, and once his men, including his cousin, Rainier, were in he took control. For four years he ruled over Monaco, until he was chased out by the Genoese. He was the first of the Grimaldi clan to try and establish a claim over the territory. On his death, his cousin (and stepson) Rainer became his successor and established the Chateau Grimaldi at nearby Cagnes. The present-day Grimaldis trace their lineage back to Rainier I, though he never held the fortress known as “the Rock”. That honour went to his son, Charles I, who regained control of it in 1331.
Rear Window (1954, dir: Alfred Hitchcock)
The second of three films that Grace Kelly (later Princess of Monaco) would make with Alfred Hitchcock, and the second that would appear in 1954, Rear Window is the go-to film when any discussion of Hitchcock’s voyeurism is on the cards, which it often is. The story of a photographer laid up with a broken leg, who whiles away his time by staring at the apartments opposite through a telephoto lens, it is also becomes a classic tale of Hitchcockian impotence when James Stewart’s Jeff witnesses what he believes was a murder. Whether it was or not forms the crux of the movie, but there’s another focus too – the teasing relationship between Jeff and Lisa (Kelly). She is sweet on him but his behaviour towards her is rather offhand; he’s keeping her at arm’s length, the cool, passive character compared to her hot, active one. While Jeff stares out the rear window over at the apartment of Thorvald (Raymond Burr) who may or may not have killed his wife, the camera stares at Kelly, in a series of swish outfits, pouting, coquettish, and the question forms in our heads – what is wrong with this guy? Why is he so obsessed with what he can see through binoculars, but not with what he could touch right in front of him? And later, combining theme A with theme B about as neatly as it can possibly be done, Hitchcock sends Kelly over to the facing block and inserts her into Jeff’s scopophilic fantasy. Now he’s interested, oh yes. Like a lot of the best movies, Rear Window has a simple, brilliant premise. In terms of cast and sets it’s simplicity itself. And as a metaphor for the theory that cinema is essentially a voyeuristic experience it’s near perfect too.
- Better than Rope or Lifeboat, this is Hitchcock’s best “one set” film
- The restoration is a marvel, having brought a near-perished film back to life
- Voyeurism in all its thrilling seediness
- Better than the not-bad Christopher Reeve remake, or the Shia LaBeouf knock-off, Disturbia
© Steve Morrissey 2014