Alfred Hitchcock had an eye for spectacle. Everybody can remember one thing about each of his movies, whether they’ve seen them or not: the crop duster in North by
Alfred Hitchcock had an eye for spectacle. Everybody can remember one thing about each of his movies, whether they’ve seen them or not: the crop duster in North by Northwest, the shower scene in Psycho, the dolly zoom he invented for Vertigo. But the thing everyone remembers about Rope, starring James Stewart and Farley Granger in a drama about a truly cold-blooded murder, is both more encompassing and less iconic — famously, Rope is shot to look like one long, single take with no cuts. Every edit (film canisters at the time could only hold about ten minutes of film) is hidden by a pan or a zoom into a static object, suggesting continuous motion, but that’s standard film trickery compared to the other innovations required. Hitchcock built a set with walls that could silently roll away when not appearing on camera. He had cameras on tracks with precise choreography. He painted the biggest background cyclorama ever used on a sound stage. During filming, a dolly fell on a cameraman’s foot and broke it in the middle of a long take, so he was gagged and removed from the studio so that the shot wouldn’t be interrupted. A daring experiment, Rope was considered a failure… by Hitchcock himself! But hindsight and posterity have agreed that it’s both technically proficient and artistically important.
Immediately after the film, retired Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall will lead a short discussion of Rope and an audience Q&A. The session is included with film admission.