Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Alfred Hitchcock called “Rope” an “experiment that didn’t work out,” and he was happy to see it kept out of release for most of three decades. He was correct that it didn’t work out, but “Rope” remains one of the most interesting experiments ever attempted by a major director working with big box-office names, and it’s worth seeing this week during its revival at the Fine Arts theaters.
The movie starred James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger in a movie version of a play that was inspired by the Leopold-Loeb murder case. In the play, two homosexual college students become fascinated by their philosophy professor’s ideas about the “innate superiority” of some people over others. Convinced they have found a victim who is inferior to them, they murder him, conceal his body in an unlocked trunk in their apartment, and then throw a dinner party with the trunk as the brazen centerpiece of the living room.
The play depended, for its effect, on the fact that it was one continuous series of actions. Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk.
The play appealed to Hitchcock’s sense of the macabre and his fascination with situations involving the inconvenience of dead bodies. But in translating the play to the screen, he had to deal with that unity of time and space. All of the events had to take place in one uninterrupted act, and he arrived at the novel idea of shooting the movie without any visible cuts, so that it would look like one continuous shot.