Number 37, which recently premiered this summer at the Fantasia Festival, proves an old argument: some films should not be remade. In this case, director Nosipho Dumisa has updated and resituated Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window within the generic contours of the gangster sub-genre.
Despite this switch in genre and the narrative framework’s relocation to the slums of Cape Town, South Africa, Number 37 takes Rear Window’s high concept and complicates it to the extreme: paraplegic Randal (Irshaad Ally) witnesses a gang-related murder across the street from his window. From there, the film becomes convoluted with the usual steamy and unseemly subplots: affairs, corrupt law enforcement, etc.
Although these differences are justified, and the argument against remakes and revisions is certainly not a universal one, Number 37 is frequently overshadowed by the brilliance of its inspiration. Dumisa never quite takes advantage of space, or the effects of distanciation that made Rear Window work so well. Much of the action is frequently exteriorized, taking place outside of the apartment, and even seen from multiple perspectives aside from the main character. Such a critical aesthetic misstep deprives the film of much tension. Indeed, the film relies far too much on graphic violence to create tension. Realism has its place, but the film does not make a persuasive case for it here.
Nonetheless, Number 37 is a respectable attempt to shed new light on a familiar story, but the new generic and stylistic elements it brings to the table make for a rather dull and uninspired update on familiar territory.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile