Rope ★★★½

Rope is a movie about men who are literally sexually attracted to intelligence, superiority, and power. From the very beginning, we hear Brandon insert smug little memories of his "time at Harvard", and how David was slightly inferior to the rest. How he invited his old psychology professor - and the victim's parents. It's not a spoiler that David is the victim, because it happens at the beginning of the movie. The entire thing is just Hitchcock building up both the intensity of the situation, and also the cockiness of Brandon has he believes he has committed the perfect murder.

Hitchcock is at his most entertaining with mystery thrillers like Rear Window and North by Northwest, but he's by far at his best when he delves deep into the psychology of the mind. Vertigo is one of my favorite films ever made, and certainly one of the most bold, especially for its time period. Rope, made ten years earlier, is just as morally groundbreaking in its head on approach to murder and crime. What Hitchcock does so brilliantly here is question the viewer's perception of who they should trust. For me, the real mystery of the movie is how Jimmy Stewart's character will react to the entire thing. It changes his entire personality, doesn't it? If he applauded and rewarded their evil act, we immediately place him into the punchable asshole of Brandon's stature. However, if he disapproves and helps in their arrest, we feel sympathy. Hitchcock provides us plenty of evidence for both, and only at the end do we really find out.

On top of the psychological complexity - and the biting critique of snobbish intellectualism of the upper class - Rope is an astounding technical achievement. While the camera doesn't necessarily do much (at least compared to one-shot-ters today like 1917), it's still impeccably timed and well crafted. Especially during the middle, when the movie is balancing multiple characters, conversations, relationships, and subtexts, I was in awe of how Hitchcock designs and executes a scene.

In 80 minutes, Rope is able to juggle suspense, a complex story, and fascinating (possibly gay?) subtexts. There is not a shot wasted (well, obviously), but also not a line or a scene. Cinema has never been so alive.

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