I’ve seen this pop up in several places over the last few days, and it was actually one of my followers on Twitter who first referred me to it, so I can’t claim any special curatorship over this. Even so, I am fascinated by this, and it’s worth some discussion.
There are any number of ways people express their fandom and their admiration of things online, and for the most part, it’s about telling other fans how much they love something and it’s about reaching out to those fans to try to create some sort of community. On rare occasion, though, people come up with a way to make you take a step back from a work of art that you know well and see it in a new way.
That’s exactly what Jeff Desom’s done to one of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, and watching this repeatedly, I’m really impressed by just how this one works. Desome basically exploded the film into individual pieces, then reassembled in such a way that you can look at the entire film at the same time, a remarkable way of stepping into the movie.
It’s hard to explain it, so let me just show it to you first:
Hitchcock’s film is all about the way people are united by these common spaces we share and the way it’s harder to hide your secrets when you live someplace with this many potential witnesses to every transgression. I have a feeling that if the legendary director actually saw this thing that Desom’s done, he’d be delighted by it, because it’s not just a gimmick. It actually makes a new statement about the geography and chronology of Hitchcock’s movie. It’s sort of amazing how the two main characters of the film, played by Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, have almost no presence here. This isn’t meant to serve as a simple synopsis, but rather as a re-interpretation.
I’m still not even sure how you’d build something like this. I’ve looked at Desom’s site, I’ve looked at the making-of, and I still don’t think I’m capable of doing something like this. I can take films apart at the idea level, and any film I’ve seen, I’m happy to engage in a verbal deconstruction. But this is an art installation that is designed to work on someone on an almost physical level, and while I’m thrilled that it’s on Vimeo so I can see it, I’d rather see this in person, properly projected. He’s turned this film into a physical space that can almost be stepped into, and it seems like that would be the way to experience it.
I spent many years living in apartments here in Los Angeles, and one of the things that has always struck me as impressive about “Rear Window” as a film is the way it captures that common space that apartments buildings share and the way life spills into those spaces, the private becoming public, the individual part of a group whether they want it or not. In the film, Hitchcock does a tremendous job of making his studio-bound movie feel like it’s capturing something real and alive and vital, and what Desom’s done here illuminates the brilliance of the way the film was staged in the first place.
My one question: how does copyright play into an art installation like this? Because I’d hate to see Universal fall on Desom like a ton of bricks for something that honors their film, and if anything has ever seemed like a clear case of “fair use” to me, this would be it.
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