Monday, March 19, 2007
Is it possible that Otto Preminger is one of the more neglected or looked over great directors. Maybe I am just not reading the right texts but i never hear him mentioned in the same breath as other greats from his era. But when you look at a body of work that includes, Anatomy of a Murder, Angel Face, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Laura it's hard to not recognize him as one of the very best.
Last night I watched Laura for the first time and absolutely loved it. In the opening scene you have the voiceover of Clifton Webb playing the despicable Waldo Lydecker. The camera follows Dana Andrews gaze around the apartment as Lydecker makes mention of a clock that will become much more important in the closing scenes of the movie. As I watcehd this opening scene I was already riveted I found myself wondering why the camera paused to focus on specific areas of the apartement and tried to keep it all in my mind for later in the film. Our first meeting with Lydecker is while his in the bathtub and as he reads his alibi for the night in which Laura was murdered. Within 3 minutes I already had a profound dislike for Lydecker and was ready to sit in and hope that he was the guilty one. Both Clifton Webb and Preminger did their job, perfectly.
Dana Andrews is the investigator on the case, Mark McPherson. And while it seems foolish and a bit unbelievable that he allows Lydecker to trail him around as he visits other suspects, it soon becomes evident that McPherson is smarter than this whole lot, even the very arrogent Lydecker. Our first introduction to Laura is in a painting. She is shown, immortalized in a painting above a fireplace. The painting hovers like a spirit, hovers over the apartment and McPherson even begins to fall under its spell, one night passing out on a chair underneath the painting after a few too many scotches.
We eventually get to know Laura more through flashbacks of bothe Lydecker and Shelby Carpenter, played in my opinion to perfection by Vincent Price. But, as McPherson is passed out under the chair Laura shows up. She has not been murdered. She was the intended victim surely, but she is still alive. And now McPherson's investigation has to take a turn.
Gene Tierney is beautiful, seductive, and a bit caniving as Laura. And while its not hard to see why Carpenter, Lydecker, and McPherson all fall in love with her, one can't help but see her as a femme fatale. You see her string along all these men and while you see her as lovely and wonderful, you also know that she will do whatever she needs to take care of herself and little white lies along that way don't matter so much. She allows all three men to maintain their obsession with her, and it will end badly fo someone.
Preminger here didn't make a dark and seedy film noir. But other noir sensibilities are here in spades. In a wonderfully tight 90 minutes, obsession is the main story here. I find myself definitely wanting to view more of Preminger's classics after this.