Wild Young Minds: November 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013


'Rear Window': superficious suspense

An invalid man with nothing to do for six weeks, except for looking out of his window day in, day out. Occassionaly being visit by his caretaker, a hard-working, sarcastic lady, and his 'to be or not to be' lover, a beautify 'high society' (literally) lady. Sounds like quite a boring setting for a thriller. Yet, when one adds two of the most famous actors of the fifties, James Stewart and Grace Kelly, the film becomes more interesting. A little later, one adds the possibility of 'murder' and the story becomes intriguous. And when we finally mention the name 'Hitchcock', a classic is completed.

'Rear Window' (1954) is a story of a photographer, Jeff, (Stewart) who has broken his leg and who is convicted to six weeks of sitting before his window, doing nothing. However, through his window he has a wide view, and is able to look inside the houses of several of his neighbors. We deal with a typical Greenwich Village apartment block here. Jeff can literally look inside the lives of his neighbors: the pretty dancer 'Miss Torso', the lonely woman 'Miss Lonelyheart', a pianist, a sculptor and, last but not least, Mr. Thorwald, a chubby salesman, and his wife.

One night, Jeff hears a loud 'Don't!' and the breaking of glass. Suddenly the lights in the apartment opposite his house go out and he sees Mr. Thorwald leaving his house in a rush. Immediately intrigued by this weird happening, Jeff pays extra attention to this particular apartment the following days. He discusses his observations with Lisa (Grace Kelly), his girlfriend, and nurse Stella. Lisa is a rich socialite and extremely in love with Jeff. Jeff, on the contrary, is afraid to settle (cliché, cliché) and thinks Lisa is too superficial and too much bound to New York, whereas he travels the world to photograph. Lisa firstly thinks Jeff is exaggerating when he explains his suspicions but soon many strange events follow.

Mr. Thorwald's wife has suddenly disappeared and is never seen again, Mr. Thorwald is seen with strange objects, such as a knife and a heavy suitcase. Whatsmore, a neighbor's dog is found dead and the only one in the apartment block who doesn't come to the window is Mr. Thorwald. Lisa joins Jeff in his obsession and spends many nights at the window as well. The only one who still isn't convinced, is Tom Doyle, a detective and friend of Jeff. Jeff can't keep his mind of Mrs. Thorwald's vanishment and has Lisa sneak into the apartment to settle the matter. Of course, Mr. Thorwald comes home too early and things start to get out of hand really badly.

'Rear Window' is one of Hitchcock's best-rated films, yet I think the story is outrageously shallow.  We all know that Jeff will eventually be right about the murder (sorry for the spoiler, but come on, what would have been the use of the film otherwise), we all know that Jeff and Lisa will both survive and yes, we all know Jeff and Lisa will end up together, despite Jeff's difficulties with commiting. Grace Kelly and James Stewart form a magnificent couple together though, typically American, but lovely to look at. Grace Kelly definitely reminded me of our Dutch proud Doutzen Kroes (should be the other way around actually) and she's perfect as the girl-next-door for this film.

Several analyses have been made about the meaning of this film, suggesting it is a reflection of society, of audience and screen and of people's desperate need of looking into the lives of others'. I think the last one is the most logical one, cause I think Hitchcock didn't have a particular deep intention with the film, he probably just wanted a film that sold good and that had some suspense in it. Well, those things definitely worked out well. Though 'Rear Window' is quite predictable, we were definitely on the ball from time to time, especially when someone was approaching Jeff's apartment (who would that be??) and he could impossibly move, because he's wheelchair-bound.

So, final conclusion: 'Rear Window' is not one of Hitchcock's strongest films, due to too much predictability and too little surprise effects. The actors, though being beautiful together, weren't that convincable either but perfect in the way Hitchcock intended them to be: an all-American man as James Steward and an icy blonde as Grace Kelly. Fortunately, 'Rear Window' has some tensious scenes and therefore deserves to be a classic anyway.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Latest repertoire is perfect for Dylans raspy voice

Is a 72-year old guy still capable of giving a convincing performance for an audience of old critical fans? That was the question that arose when I heard the announcement that folk- and rock legend Bob Dylan would give two concerts in the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. His age was clearly visible: wild curly and grey hair, a stiff stance and a marked face. The Dylan of the sixties is vaguely recognisable, but the most important question is to what extent that accounts for his brilliant musicality. 

Along with the first notes that are striken, it becomes clear that his voice has adopted a great dose of rawness over the years. Dylans voice is hoarse, gruff and so grumbling that it makes Tom Waits sound sweet. This voice matches the songs of his latest record 'Tempest' perfectly, on which blues and folk have a leading role. The grumbling gives force to the heavy blues, which is played in a convincing manner by the band.

The performance of classic hits as 'She Belongs to Me' and 'Tangled up in Blue' is more like a quest for recognition. The known repertoire might be given a new dimension by the unrecognisable performance of the songs, but it is very clear that this dimension isn't a positive one. Because of the fact that the lines are hard to recognize, it's impossible to sing along and so the audience stands straight and static, such a shame. Also, the grumpy grumbling doesn't show a lot emotion. Dylan seems to want to get rid of the songs and he shows this quite obviously.

After a break of half an hour - after all, Dylan is an oldie - there's more speed in the show. The energy is back and we see this in songs as 'Early Roman Kings' and 'Duquesne Whistle'. Dylans strong voice sounds convincing and it underlines the darkness of a song as 'Pay in Blood'.

The recent song 'Forgetful Heart' tops things off. A beautiful ballad which, this time comprehensible, brings up emotions both in the audience and for his Bobness. The quite reserved audience gives a tremendous applause in the middle of the song. Dylan shows his sensitive side when pronouncing the words 'All night I lay awake and listen to the sound of pain'. His voice is strong and accurate, which feels quite penetrating, but in a good way.

The band adapts itself formidable to Dylans tone of voice and gives a bit more swing in the show. Dylan shows various musical sides as well. When he's playing the tambourine, the old Bob returns for a bit. He does this quite pure. Dylan plays the piano and guitar as well and proves to be quite musical after all this time. 

Unfortunately, the dynamics on stage, stays on stage. Dylan is known for his boring concerts, due to a limited interaction with the audience. And indeed, the nights isn't filled with talks and thanks. Even worse: Dylan doesn't show any affection at all. This may seem indifferent, but it adds to his image. His crusty and moody and rebellious image, which gives him an air of mystery. And nothing's wrong with that, if you ask me.

Despite this, Dylan isn't too faint and returns - after having left the stage - back to delight the audience with two classics. When hearing the beginning tunes of 'All Along the Watchtower' a loud cheering fills the hall. 'Blowin in the Wind' is received enthusiastically as well. As much as the performance went up after the break, as much as it went down again now. It becomes clear at once that Dylan is best to limit himself to his new songs. The classics sound cliché, too easily gotten rid of and brought with less emotions than the new ones. The themes that Dylan brings forward with these two songs, are hard to translate to 2013. Racial segregation is no longer an issue and Dylan feels this as well. 


To be honest, all classics Dylan performs in the two hours are hard to transfer to his current voice. That voice is raw, that voice is raspy and this makes this voice right for the heavy blues of 'Tempest'. That's why Dylan should listen to his own voice - as he has done all his life - and focus on his latest repertoire. The latest repertoire that was brought to us tonight in a convincing manner, sensible and with a strong teamwork. Hat off for the new Dylan.

Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very, very high