sat 13/07/2024

DVD: Laura | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Laura

DVD: Laura

Otto Preminger's intricate film noir analyses the male need to turn women into illusions

Reality check: Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews in 'Laura'. The portrait was a painted photo of the actress.20th Century-Fox

If not as ensnaring as Double IndemnityThe Big Sleep, or Out of the Past, Otto Preminger’s urbane police procedural Laura is one of the best film noirs because it transcends the genre. It is an inverted women’s picture – about the hubris of a successful career girl cum Galatea – a savage critique of the decadence of Manhattan high society, and a commentary on the neurotic idealisation of beautiful women.

It begins like Rebecca: the Wildean newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) musing, with the words “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died," on the buckshot-to-the-face homicide of the protégée, Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), he monopolised. The crime is being investigated by a blunt cop, Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), who’s bemused by the bitchy feuding over the corpse by the acid Waldo (pictured below right, with Laura) and the caddish Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), who believes Laura would have married him, notwithstanding his affair with the spineless Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson).

Flashbacks establish that Laura was as unknowable in love as she was ambitious in advertising. The alluring portrait of her in her apartment captivates and disorients McPherson. Having fallen asleep below it, he wakes to the “ghost” of the real woman, concludes that someone else was slain, and adds Laura to the suspects. In the glare of the interrogation light, Laura is less a mystery woman than a hard-boiled sourpuss. But by now McPherson’s probing is that of the jealous lover, not the driven detective.

Nocturnal rain (and trenchcoats), and the shadows cast by light filtering through Venetian blinds insist that Laura is a noir, albeit a baroque one: Waldo’s and Laura’s twinned apartments are stuffed with antiques and geegaws, his feminine taste perfectly echoed by hers. That extends to McPherson, whose unapologetic masculinity shows up Waldo’s effeteness and Shelby’s unctuousness: in 1944, the movie said to the boys overseas, you, too, can aspire to a dame as breathtaking as Gene Tierney if you’re as tough as this New York dick.

Watch the recent BFI trailer for Laura

In the glare of the interrogation light, Laura is less a mystery woman than a hard-boiled sourpuss


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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