21 May
Wide view of the Carrot tart with a hand with a bandage thumb reaching towards the tart with a fork. The tart is on a white rimmed plate that is laying on a white napkin with a lot of blue dashes on it.

Rear Window (1954)

“I’d say she’s doing a woman’s hardest job: juggling wolves.”

– Lisa

We’re back with another film with themes of isolation, boredom, and confinement – not unlike our own experience as the Munch crew continues to hunker down and maintain our social distance. In a time of chronic monotony, Rear Window brought a few new experiences to our lives: it was the first Hitchcock movie any of us had seen, and the oldest film we’d ever watched for the purposes of this blog.

Rear Window also happens to be what Disturbia, our last post, is largely based on. It features a lonely person for whom unfortunate circumstances have caused them to be trapped in their home for an extended period with only their window available to entertain them. While Disturbia spends a good 20 minutes explaining why this happened to its main character, Rear Window isn’t messing around and never shows you the accident that caused the main character, Jeff (played by James Stewart), to be stuck in a wheelchair and a very uncomfortable looking lower-body cast. Instead, Rear Window immerses you in Jeff’s limited world. It’s hard to resist finding yourself totally invested in all the lives you see as the camera pans through the single-set neighborhood. The slow, dreamy drift of the camera is mesmerizing, and whether you want to or not, much like Jeff, you find yourself falling victim to voyeurism.

Voyeurism is the central theme around which we built our meal. We understood it to involve a certain morbid curiosity or reluctant desire to see something tragic or terrible happen to the people you’re watching. This is not just because you have a desire to be entertained, but somehow seeing the struggles of others makes one feel more content with their own strife. Yes, that is very dark.

We chose foods where we have all experienced some kind of mishap in their preparation. If someone were spying on us during our meal prep (which we did from our separate homes, keeping in touch via FaceTime), they might see us reaching for one of these utensils and hold their breath while they wait for us to slip up.

We started with some crispy apple chips served with a maple and sage dip. AndrĂ© had to face his demons (namely, the zucchini chips he made for NYE 2013) and thinly slice each apple with a mandolin without slicing a finger in the process. We finished this task unscathed only to be greeted by another demon in the form of frying oil and all the potential burns that can come from this cooking method. We want to face our demons here at Munch, so we heated some oil and fried each slice until it was crispy (or at least as crispy as we could get them). Overall, this dish was not worth the danger we underwent to prepare it. If we did it again, we’d coat the apple in something before frying it (or just cook it in the oven) and would use cream cheese in the dip instead of greek yogurt.

Next up was a carrot and ricotta tart on homemade puff pastry. The dangerous part here was making the puff pastry. You literally have to pound the butter with a rolling pin to flatten it out and create a thin layer than can be folded into the dough. We avoided smashing our fingers in the process and ended up with some homemade pastry dough that was light, flaky, and delicious. The carrot and ricotta part itself was fine, but we all went off book with some extra herbs and a drizzle of EVOO to make it a little more interesting to eat, and we highly recommend you do the same if you decide to make the recipe.

Finally, we closed out with a muddled fruit Old Fashioned. I (Leanna) found out in writing this post that the boys apparently hate our muddler and cocktail shaker?!

We have since remedied the situation with our muddler and cocktail shaker, but not before making this drink. We very carefully muddled the fruit and thankfully no knuckles were harmed in the making of this cocktail. It would have been a bummer, too, because this was not our favorite cocktail. We’ll be sticking to a regular Old Fashioned in the future.

If anyone was watching us while we cooked this day, they would have been disappointed by the lack of drama involved. The same can’t be said for Jeff and the cast of characters he obsesses over in Rear Window. Like Disturbia, the other people in Jeff’s life are hesitant to indulge him at first, but once they catch a hint of intrigue, they’re as invested as he is (the audience included).

Rear Window, unlike Disturbia, eases you into spying on people. Although the moment when Jeff takes out a telephoto lens is jarring and definitely makes you say, “Well, now this has gone too far,” you are pretty much with him every other step of the way. Even without the camera, Jeff sees some intimate scenes that probably weren’t meant for his eyes. But the subtle way the movie builds up to these revelations helps you question your own motives when he finally does take out his camera and charge across the line that separates casually looking out your window to full-on spy. It makes you question, if I leave my windows open, am I inviting you to have a look in? Or is a window just for me look out of and even a passing glance inside is an invasion of privacy?

But we can’t end this post without talking about Lisa (played by Grace Kelly). Lisa, Jeff’s girlfriend, is simply captivating. She is charismatic, determined, and compassionate, and on top of that, every scene she’s in is a moment in fashion. And as much as we loved her, one of our biggest complaints with the film is that Jeff never seems to give her the appreciation or credit she deserves. Although the two have obvious chemistry, the why or how that attraction came to be wasn’t clear to us. Jeff is aloof, independent, and selfish: what does Lisa see in him and why is she so willing to do whatever it takes to keep him interested?

(Warning: spoilers abound but this movie is half a century old so it’s on you if you haven’t watched it by now.) By the finale of the movie, however, you’re not thinking about that. Although Lisa’s involvement in investigating Jeff’s murder mystery starts out of loyalty to him, she soon begins making decisions based on her own curiosity. You watch these scenes from Jeff’s perspective as Lisa bravely and slyly evades a murderer and seeks justice on a dangerous solo expedition. Lisa is a smart woman, and we don’t think she would put herself in harm’s way or in a questionable legal situation for a man. These were her choices, and in the end, it made us respect and believe her choice to adapt her lifestyle to be with Jeff, even if we didn’t get it at first.

Disturbia is a cheap man’s Rear Window. If you want to watch a movie in lockdown about someone else who is in lockdown, we’d recommend Rear Window over Disturbia any day.