While working on a PJMedia post for next week — bringing Hitchcock’s Rope into the latest gay “rights” absurdity — I came across “Making a Meal of Manhood: Revisiting Rope and the Question of Hitchcock’s Homophobia,” a 2012 essay by David Greven.
Greven is looking back on D. A. Miller’s 1990 paper “Anal Rope,” which (as its title does more than suggest) “reads” the film from that perspective.
(“Perspective” is probably not the technically correct word, but I didn’t go to university, thank God.)
Greven, in contrast, argues for an “oral” reading, which — to my untutored (not to mention straight and female) mind — makes much more sense:
The killers famously use the large chest hiding the corpse as a buffet table, and the static-by-design movie is necessarily dialogue driven.
In a separate essay, “Homosexuality in Hitchock’s Rope,” Gabrielle Golenda helpfully whittles down Miller’s “anal” theory:
The state of the art equipment of the time held only ten minutes worth of film, which was perhaps not coincidentally corresponded with Hitchcock’s use of montage. A sequence in Rope varies from nine to ten minutes, but from start to end, Hitchcock’s intention was for all shots to be ten minutes. Five sequences are actually filmed in a ten-minute takes. Though it is suggested that perhaps he blacked out the frame each time he turned over a new camera (Miller, 114).
D.A. Miller in his essay “Anal Rope” pinpoints how the transitions erotically reveal the homosexual relationship between Philip between David, but more importantly the hidden identity of the gay male. Ironically, and probably noticeable only upon the second viewing of the film, one might observe that many of the transitions in the film are made by the camera panning into the backside of a man’s suit. This is Hitchcock’s Freudian slip. Though it is never said, it is felt, the viewer enters a “noir” area. This is the invitation to wonder, according to the film, what is gay sex?:
“Under cover of these blackouts, [writes Miller] two things get ‘hidden.’ One is the popularity privileged site of gay male sex, the orifice whose sexual use general opinion considers (whatever happens to be the state of sexual practices among gay men and however it may very according to time and place) the least dispensable element in defining the true homosexual. The other is the cut, whose pure technicity a claim can hardly be sustained at so overwhelmingly hallucinatory a moment, even if the script didn’t link the word with the body wound of irreducible symbolic importance.” (Miller, 127).
This stylistically symbolic, and quite possibly unconscious troupe in Rope, is a key element of noir finding a way around the hays code [sic] to depict the anxiety of moral ambivalence.
I’ll chop that down even more:
Miller claims that half of Hitchcock’s “hidden” cuts/dissolves in Rope settle upon a male character’s butt, so there!
So obviously I looked up Vashi Nedomansky’s widely-publicized video delineating the hard and soft cuts Hitchock used in Rope, which is often lazily and inaccurately described as having been shot in one long take:
Now, besides being straight, female and degree-less, it is possible that I’m also going blind, but I fail to see what Miller led me to expect I’d see.
Yes, again and again, the camera hovers over a male character’s back, but if there is some subsequent movement down to his ass, I’m not seeing it.
I presume Miller had access to a VCR when he wrote this essay in 1990. This makes his hallucination all the more puzzling, one that can’t be charitably excused as his misremembering a film he’d seen in theaters a day, month or decade earlier.
The gay “subtext” in Rope has always been barely “sub” — as can be seen even in those brief clips above, it’s one of the gayest movies ever made — but Miller’s dubious theory is surely an ass too far.
Or is that just my straight white female privilege talking?