A new 35 mm restoration of Rear Window is as good a reason as any to rerelease Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece of voyeurism. Images of L.B. ”Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart), the wheelchair-bound news photographer who escapes the boredom of a broken leg and the demands for intimacy by a marriage-minded girlfriend (Grace Kelly) by spying on his neighbors, may already feel warmly familiar. But visual details — the newly vibrant bloodred intensity of the sunset, the striking Nile green of Miss Lonelyheart’s dress, the bandbox freshness of Kelly’s costumes by Edith Head — give the movie a sharpness that underscores the whole subtext of moviegoers as voyeurs, too.
”We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms,” says the shut-in’s extremely practical nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter, her every line a chili pepper of stinging wisdom), as she tries to straighten out Jeff’s priorities as crisply as she slaps on liniment during a rubdown: Be yourself, dig the one who digs you, quit sitting in the dark conjecturing about other people’s private lives and overanalyzing your own.
As you sit in the dark watching a debrided ”Rear Window” (restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, who also revivified ”Vertigo” and ”Lawrence of Arabia”), these stark suggestions and implications come through with flying colors.