Rope ★★★★★

The perfect cinematic adaptation of a one-act play, Rope is an absolute masterpiece of intricacies, most notable in the choreography, staging, shifts in continuity detail, sound design, lighting, camera movements, acting, writing, use of silence, use of music, insane modular set design, and even clever wordplay. Yeah, I realize that's almost everything, but it's all that good.

A seemingly straightforward story that twists tightly before it unravels utterly, the film takes its name very seriously in every sense of the word. Along with the charmingly clever Brandon, the impression of a single-take lures you in, enticing the viewer with an appealing new vision of the world before delivering a sharp moral reckoning that's almost disorienting in whiplash. Rupert's speech coupled with the physical act of literally opening the window immediately disrupt the film's trance. This moment finally breaks the subtle suffocation of the set, and violently reminds the viewer of their own real world context outside of the insular apartment and the twisty philosophies of the party guests.

I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with the vital use of color for a film from 1948. The neon sign! The golden initials! The shifting sunset backdrop! The gorgeous costumes! What a beautiful breath of fresh air this must have been for its time. Truly innovative.

I am also simply in awe of the lighting, both the gradual shifts in daylight and the novel approach to traditional stage lighting. Having each take last for so long with such a free-roaming camera means the lighting has to be nearly universal from any position and any angle, while minimizing unwanted shadow. This technical challenge is met in such a way that might have given Karl Freund chills, just before he revolutionized universal stage lighting with I Love Lucy in 1951.

The camerawork itself is reminiscent of Birdman, a film that still felt innovative in 2014, which was, you know, only 66 years later?

Beyond being brisk, elegant, complex, and so very satisfying as a story, Rope is an unbelievable technical achievement. This is Hitchcock at his most minimal, and it is marvelous. I can't sing the praises for this film enough.

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