I CONFESS - had never seen Hitchcock's tale of a priest (Montgomery Clift) forced to keep mum about a murder confessed to him - a lovely series of lesser-seen Hitchcock films unfurling at the Castro Theatre's helping me fill in some blanks. I liked this film - was pleasantly surprised at the ensemble nature of the film, less centered on our conflicted hero than taking in all of the people in his orbit, including the authorities brought in to investigate the case and the surrounding community. Strong though it often is (and unusually serious for a Hitchcock film), one does long for more contemporary characterization. In the mid-50s it was enough to simply show Clift as a priest, but we need more details these days to really understand WHY he doesn't just divulge what he knows. There's very little insight into why Clift became a priest, thus little tactile understanding of what he'd lose by breaking the seal of the confessional. A remake penned by George Pelecanos (or even Richard Price), an author with a knack for that much character detail and grounding in both religious and crime stories, would not be remiss.
ROPE - the problem of characterization continues here. It's just impossible to buy James Stewart as a professor who espouses belief in murder as a right of the superior being. But the mechanics of storytelling in the movie, presenting the action as in a single, mostly-unbroken take (save for a truly high-impact close-up) move the thing along beautifully, making for a dense and entertaining 80 minutes, the last three of which are absolutely stunning.