In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock released his first Technicolor film, a psychological thriller loosely based on the Leopold & Loeb murders, starring Farley Granger and John Dall as a pair of Nietzschean “superior intellects” who throw a dinner party in their New York City apartment immediately after killing a former classmate and stuffing him into a chest they leave in the middle of the living room as guests start arriving. Reid Farrington, who previously reimagined Carl Th. Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC in THE PASSION PROJECT, deconstructs and reconstructs Hitchcock’s film in GIN & “IT,” a multimedia whirlwind in which Farrington digitally removes ROPE’s characters and projects them individually onto screens that four actors move around the set, creating a three-dimensional effect that mixes live theater with film. (“It” was Hitchcock and screenwriter Arthur Laurents’s code word for the underlying homosexuality between Granger and Dall’s characters, which they subtly hid from the censors.)
Hitchcock famously shot ROPE in ten continuous, uncut takes, ranging from four and a half to ten minutes each, using a carefully choreographed dolly with a small spotlight on it to weave throughout the characters and specially built set that the crew had to constantly move around to keep the action flowing seamlessly; Farrington reverses that, with Karl Allen, Keith Foster, Christopher Loar, and Tim McDonough, one of whom is always wearing a tiny light on his head (serving as director while also mimicking the dolly), carrying around Granger (referred to as Brown Suit), Dall (Blue Suit), Jimmy Stewart, Joan Chandler, and the other actors on translucent screens, essentially following the path the dolly took in the making of the film, representing the viewer’s gaze. Farrington reveals all the behind-the-scenes goings-on as the four performers stop to discuss a technical glitch with the offstage crew, switch responsibilitles, and punish one of their own for making a mistake; meanwhile, in between “takes,” Farrington includes audio snippets from an interview Hitchcock gave to a French journalist talking about how and why he made ROPE the way he did, with several of his pronouncements being echoed by what’s occurring onstage. In ROPE, Hitchcock sought to make the perfect film about the perfect murder; in GIN & “IT,” a self-described “technical ballet,” Farrington reveals that there is no such thing as perfection, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had by all.