Reviews

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

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The Phantom of the Opera, Rupert Julian (1925) [93 minutes]

This is my entry for the Universal Backlot Blogathon.Please click the link and check out my fellow bloggers’ posts! I’d also like to thank Kristen [Journeys in Classic Film] for hosting this fabulous blogathon! ūüôā
 

Since I was around 12 I have been a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera. It all began when I went to the theater with my grandparents. I saw it in the Spanish equivalent of Broadway. Since that day me and my little sister have been completely entranced by the story of the poor, damaged Phantom.We still pop in a DVD of the 2004 version whenever we need our fix (that movie is one of my top guilty pleasures :P). The other day I was browsing through Netflix and saw this version was available for Instant Streaming. Imagine my excitement! And believe me, it did not disappoint.

Julian’s¬†The Phantom of the Opera¬†is very different from¬†the other, Andrey-Lloyd-Webber-y ones that I know and love. Firstly, it is not a musical (it’s a silent movie, that would be rather impossible). Also, it sticks closer to the novel than Webber’s version does. Even with the lack of singing and dancing, this version feels much more operatic than any of the ones I have seen before. It is high melodrama with extremely theatrical acting. The sets are wonderfully crafted and areas, like the phantom’s lair, are just as eerily beautiful as one would imagine them to be. The film is tinted different colors (amber, red, green) depending on the scene and the location. This only adds to this already atmospheric film.

I have yet to mention Lon Chaney’s performance as Erick, the Phantom. He is so great that I figured that he needed his own paragraph! He is so engaging while on screen; your eye cannot help but¬†be drawn to him. There are moments in the film when he is shrouded in shadow or covered in cloaks and a mask, but he still manages to be such a presence on-screen. When he takes off his mask he only improves. Under pounds and pounds of makeup and wires, which Chaney would apply himself, he still manages to emote. Chaney makes this monster human. This movie is worth watching for him alone.

The Ending:¬†SPOILERS ahead: The ending for this film has kind of a crazy history. Initially it was the same as the novel, where the Phantom lets Christine go and then dies of a broken heart. Apparently the audience at the time didn’t like it, so they filmed an alternate ending. This other ending is the one that you can see today. Sadly, the original appears to be¬†lost! This makes me quite upset. The “new” ending just destroys the Phantom’s redemption arc, which is part of what makes him such an amazing character.

Quality:¬†The quality of the film is pretty bad. I’m not sure if it’s just the one on Netflix, but it is very spotty and grainy. It is still watchable, but I just thought I should give you a heads up. If there is a better version out there please let me know!

How To Watch:¬†Silent movies are tricky. You really have to pay attention, more than a sound movie, to really get everything out of it. So, I wouldn’t recommend watching it when you have a million things to do. This movie really needs to be watched in a dark room where you can just let yourself be transported into the opera house.

Who To Watch With: The Phantom is really very scary looking, so probably not the best for little kids. Other than that, I think anyone can enjoy this! Even if you hate the Webber version, give this a try. It is a very good film and everyone should give it a shot.

Final Verdict: This is an amazing, atmospheric, operatic film. Chaney is outstanding as the Phantom; and if anything else just watch it for him. I have yet to show this to my sister (my fellow Phantom enthusiast) and I cannot wait to see her reaction. It is really a wonderful film. Certain scenes are so beautifully rendered that they are likely to stay in your head long after you watch them.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! :D

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Diabolique [Les Diaboliques]

Diabolique, Henri-Georges Clouzot (1955) 114 minutes

This is my entry in the The Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made)¬†Blogathon. Please click on the link and check out the entries by my fellow bloggers! I would like to also thank¬†Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci [Tales of the Easily Distracted]¬†and Rebecca Barnes [ClassicBecky‚Äôs Brain Food] for putting this all together and letting me be a part of it ūüôā

Alfred Hitchcock is the undisputed master of the thriller. He did it better, more often and more consistently than anyone else. Others have made excellent thrillers, but they are always compared back to the master. Hell, these films are even called “Hitchcockian Thrillers.” ¬†This genre is the focus of this lovely, little blogathon. They are basically thrillers that are so freaking good, that could have been made by Hitchcock, himself. Clouzot’s¬†Diabolique holds an interesting place¬†amongst¬†these films. Hitchcock almost made this film. Diabolique¬†is based off a novel by¬†Boileau and Narcejac. Hitchcock was actually looking for the rights to this, but Clouzot beat him to it! There were no hard feelings from Hitchcock, however. He later adapted another¬†Boileau and Narcejac novel with¬†Vertigo¬†(which is one of my favorites). Also, he reportedly showed¬†Diabolique¬†to those who helped him make¬†Vertigo¬†and¬†Pyscho as a great example of a thriller.

Diabolique¬†is about a wealthy, kindly woman, Christina Delassale (Vera Clouzot¬†(the director’s wife)) who is tormented and abused by her gold-digging husband, Michel Delassale (Paul Meurisse). They run a boarding school for little boys. Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) is a teacher at the school and also Michel’s not-so-secret mistress. Michel is quickly characterized as the¬†villain in the film. He is horrible to his wife and mistress both. He buys rotten food for the children of the school and hands out¬†outrageous¬†punishments for the slightest¬†offenses. Nicole, surprisingly, is Christina’s friend. They have struck up an odd partnership and are out to get rid of Michel. While Nicole pushes for action to be taken against this horrible man, Christina is much more¬†hesitant. These two women are set up as diametric opposites. Nicole is a taller, more masculine blonde. She is anything but passive. Christina is much more¬†sensitive¬†and hesitant to act. Her appearance is much more fragile and feminine than Nicole. She is also ¬†a foreigner and a devout Catholic with heart issues (apparently she’s sickly and doesn’t deal with stress well). There are also a number of smaller characters who serve to add some humor to this dark film.

I’m not going to get into much more of the plot or characterization. If you have never seen¬†Diabolique, you really should avoid spoilers like the plague. It is¬†jam-packed¬†with shocks, twists and turns. If you are watching it for the second, third or tenth time, you will see many little hints and clues scattered throughout the film. Also, the cinematography and lighting for this film are absolutely¬†stellar. There is a lot of play with shadows, especially in the most “important” moments in the movie. This film can hold its own with any Hitchcock movie and is considered one of the greatest French thriller of all time.

Creepy Credits:. The words are projected on a filthy pool of water, which is constantly rippling. The music starts off as a standard, pretty creepy score. Then the voices of young boys are introduced into the music. After that an organ starts to play the theme (this is were I was getting pretty weirded out). Finally the original theme comes into this mix even louder with the organ and the choir continuing to play/sing (unmistakably the score to a very scary movie!).

How to Watch:¬†Do yourself a favor and watch this at night in a dark room. I’ve watched in the middle of the afternoon and its not just not the same.

Who to Watch This With:¬†Probably not the best for young children. I don’t want to say much more (for fear of getting into spoilers), but there are some rather¬†disturbing¬†images, which may lead to nightmares… and not only for the little ones!

Final Verdict:¬†Diabolique¬†is a wonderful example of a suspenseful, intelligent and nuanced thriller. It is beautifully shot and the plot is masterfully crafted. ¬†Whether it’s the setting or the characters, this movie is unmistakably French. And to give credit where credit is due: Clouzot, himself, is a wonderful director, who shines in this film.¬†Its totally like Hitchcock, but not really…¬†Maybe thats a bit of a cop-out from me, but I don’t mean it to be. Just give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! :D

On-Flight Entertainment: The Big Year, 2011

The Big Year, David Frankel (2011) [100 minutes]

Hey there, guys!¬†I have been traveling so much this summer. Whether it’s bus, car, plane,¬†zeppelin, or whatever I have had a crazy but completely awesome time! That’s why it has been so quiet on here the last few weeks, but now that will be¬†rectified.

I have seen a incredible amount of horrible movies on planes (most of them involving Jennifer Anniston or some wannabe, I’m not sure which is worse). So, when I put on my headphones on the airplane I was preparing for the worst. I had never heard of this movie they were showing,¬†The Big Year, and I went into it¬†rather¬†begrudgingly. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Big Year¬†is a movie about an annual birding¬†competition, in which birders, or bird watchers, have one year to travel across the United States and see as many¬†species¬†of birds as possible. The film takes place over a year. These men, pictured above, compete for the title of best birder. The plot, I’ll admit, sounds a little silly. I knew nothing about birding. I mean, I had no idea a competition like that even¬†existed! But I found it all really interesting. I¬†acquired¬†some interesting knowledge that I’ll probably never use again, but you never know. ūüėõ

The birding¬†competition¬†makes the movie more interesting and unique, but this is really a story about three men. Owen Wilson¬†plays the reigning champion of birding. He is an antagonist of sorts, but the film really¬†succeeds¬†in humanizing him. He is the best of the best, but we see the price he pays to keep that up. Steve Martin¬†is a very successful¬†business¬†man who only wants to retire and enjoy a big year before it’s too late. He struggles with leaving behind his job and his family, fearing he is too old for this dream.¬†Jack Black¬†plays our hero. A man who is really down on his luck, he has failed at most everything in life. Birding is what he’s great at and what he really wants to do. He struggles immensely¬†throughout¬†the film, but never gives up. Honestly, I found the portrayals of these characters refreshing. They are not¬†unfamiliar¬†tropes, but the way they are approached is without any sort of prejudice. The film does not judge any of its characters. Their faults and strengths are laid out for the viewer to see, without glorifying or degrading anyone in the process.

By the stars in the film you would think that this movie is¬†sidesplittingly hilarious, but that isn’t case. It is funny, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t the point. It’s really a feel-good, inspirational and simply adorable film. It probably won’t change your life (I mean who knows maybe you’ll want to take up birding), but it is a very way enjoyable to spend 100 minutes.

Hey! I Know That Guy: There are many little cameos throughout the movie. I always like seeing people randomly pop up out of their usual context.

Low Scores:  This movie has surprisingly low scores from critics. I was not expecting 10/10, but it is really judged way too harshly. I think most of the problem lies with people going in a expecting a comedy à la The Hangover. It is most certainly not that.

How to Watch:¬†However you like! It’s a great film to just play one night that you are needing a cute, feel-good movie.

Who to Watch With:¬†Anyone really can watch this. If you know someone who is a nature¬†enthusiast or loves birds, then obviously it’s is perfect for them.

Final Verdict: I am not going to list this amongst my top films of all time, but I really found it such a lovely experience. It just felt so sincere and unpretentious. The actors do a wonderful job and the scenery is lovely. The Big Year is completely different than the movies I usually write about, its not old, foreign or too odd or out there. I wanted to review it because I really think you guys will like it. I mean I really enjoyed it, so please give it a shot!

 

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! :D 

And the Oscar Goes to… The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai, David Lean (1957) [161 minutes]

{This is the first post in a new series I’m doing on the Oscars. This will cover all the Oscar winners since the inception of this prestigious award. Not in chronological order, however, it is simply random (as this post shows). Of course, not all of these movies are worthy winners or even good films, but that’s what makes it fun ūüėõ }
 

After I published the post about my favorite year in movies [here it is, if you haven’t seen it], many expressed complete incredulity at how I could write a post about my favorite films of 1957 without including¬†The Bridge on the River Kwai. The answer is really very simple: I had never seen the movie before. ¬†Many of the comments told me that I must rectify this. Even if it’s not going on my top list, I should watch it. This along with my dad constantly lamenting that he raised daughter who has never seen this film, led me to watch it. Honestly, it was well worth it. Writing this review was quite a hurdle for me, though. Since I haven’t watched many war movies, I don’t have much to compare it to. I have to judge The Bridge on the River Kwai¬†on its merits as a cinematic¬†experience. I don’t know much about what actually happened on the river Kwai (all I know is that its nothing like the movie), but I do know a little something about great movies.

This is a World War II movie, probably one of the most famous ever filmed, but we are never in the heat of the battle. It’s a film about British soldiers who are¬†prisoners of war in Japanese occupied Burma. They are instructed to build a bridge for their captors. Their leader, played masterfully by Sir Alec Guinness,is extremely honorable and proud. He’ll break before he bends. He is¬†horrified¬†that the Japanese are not abiding by the Geneva Convention. Commanding officers are forced into physical labor, which is a major faux-pas (the Convention mentions that specifically as a bad thing).

The highlight of this film has to be the characters. It is a psychological study of the effects of war on different personalities. These men are thrown into horrible situations and are faced with difficult decisions. I find it completely fascinating, and I have to admit I was not expecting that at all. The whole film is also entrenched in irony (especially the fantastic ending).The men lose sight of the bigger picture. In order to prove the superiority of the British soldier, they end up helping the Japanese.

You leave the film with a wonderful mix of satisfaction and disappointment, which is an extremely difficult balance to achieve. Traditionally it is a happy ending, but the way that the story is crafted it comes across as bitter-sweet.

All the trailers I found were awful. This famous scene is a better introduction to the film than anything else:

Some Good Old-Fashioned Scene Analysis: The scene above is one of the most famous in cinematic history. It is our introduction to the British soldiers and damn do they make an impact! They march into camp, as prisoners, with their heads held high, whistling and marching in perfect time. Their shoes are broken and they are filthy, but their spirits are not broken. The men in the camp look at them in utter confusion. The Japanese officers look more befuddled than anyone. Here comes a group of captives, but they seem prouder than the men imprisoning them.

Why Hadn’t You Watched It Before?:¬†I am not too big on war movies, never have been. I don’t hate them, but sometimes they bore me.¬†They tend to be really long, which means that I really have to purposefully sit down one afternoon/evening and watch it… and that kind of foresight and planning isn’t really my thing. I’m more likely to do it for the genres I love, but for war, not so much.

How to Watch:¬†This movie needs that big screen¬†experience, but more than that it needs great sound. The sound for this movie, whether diagetic or not, is probably among the best I’ve seen. That clip above is a wonderful example. You hear the men’s boots, their clear whistles and then the orchestra seamlessly blends in. It gives me goosebumps.

Who to Watch With: Anyone can watch this. There is nothing crude or graphic. It’s great for people who aren’t into war movies, too (like me!).

Final Verdict:¬†There is a reason this is so famous. The characterization is amazing, as is that super catchy whistling tune. It’s worth it.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! :D

The Rules of the Game [La R√®gle du Jeu]

The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir (1939) [110 minutes]

Renoir’s The Rules of the Game is the prototypical example of the critical darling. This film has a tumultuous history. It went from being hated (and when I say hated, I’m not kidding), to being seen as one of the greatest films ever made. Whenever such a big change in public opinion occurs, it always leaves me curious. Why did all those people hate it? Why did people then love it? And most importantly: Will I/my lovely readers enjoy it?

The Rules of the Game is a tragic comedy-of-manners set in France. There is a large ensemble of characters, which on a first viewing are difficult to keep track of. The plot revolves around a series of romantic entanglements that come to light while this group is on a hunting trip to the French countryside. There are several plots involving the upstairs crowd (the wealthy couples) and the downstairs one (the servants and groundsmen). If you’re a fan of those kinds of dual, complementary tales (√† la Downton Abbey), this movie is definitely worth a shot.

For me the key to understanding this film was to really pay attention. I know that sounds pretty basic, but believe me it’s trickier than it sounds. Renoir has so much stuff happening in a single shot, the audience really has to know where to look (and sometimes it’s at like 3 places at once!). He uses deep depth of field, or deep focus, to show different characters/objects in the foreground and background simultaneously. You will have two men arguing over a woman in the foreground; while in the background, she is sneaking off into an empty bedroom with another.

The mis-en-scene is also very “cluttered.” I use quotes here because I don’t mean to use that term pejoratively. The rooms are filled to the brim with antiques and opulence,¬† it serves to further highlight the outrageous lifestyle of the characters. The movie is a farce, rather than a true-to-life depiction of 1930’s France. This satire underscores the fact that their world is barely being held together by a set of rules. These rules must be followed, by both the wealthy and their servants, to avoid chaos. Of course, once the rules are ignored we are left to watch the delicious disaster that ensues.

Man of Many Hats: Jean Renoir is the director, writer, producer and actor in this film. He plays a the role of the bumbling jester for this elite crowd. He is in the picture at the top of the post, holding onto Christine (the only woman in the still).

Firey Reception:¬†So, you remember how earlier I said that people really hated this film when it was released? I meant it. At the premiere, which Renoir attended, people were extremely angry. There was yelling and throwing things at the screen. The worst offender was this one man who was sitting in the theater with a newspaper. At some point he calmly unfolded his paper, stood up, took out some matches, set the paper on fire and attempted to burn the theater to the ground! That’s a pretty extreme reaction… watching it today it’s hard to see what in the film would warrant such desperation, but if you put it in context it is a little easier (not really, but we can try :P). This was released right before WWII broke out, so tensions were very high. Also, this film is a pointed critique of the stupidity and vanity of french society’s rules, of all social/financial levels, so maybe it felt a bit to truthful for them to handle.

General Tip about French Films: These kinds of movies start off REALLY slow. It feels like nothing at all is happening. They tend to pickup the pace at about the 30 minute mark, and then all the crazy, intense stuff happens. Most people who say “all French movies are so friggin’ boring,” in my opinion, don’t make it past those first 30 minutes. Which is really their loss!

How to Watch: Just pay attention. On a first viewing, you won’t get every nuance and detail, but it’s still very funny and a good time. This film is perfect for repeat viewings, every time you watch The Rules of the Game it just gets better and better.

Who to Watch This With:¬†This film isn’t for kids. It’s very dialogue heavy and there are many confusing love triangles, hexagons, and so on. Also, there is a rather intense hunting scene. It is a very famous scene, one of the most famous in cinema history, but it is hard to watch.¬†

Final Verdict: The Rules of the Game is a very intimidating film to watch. It is so heavily praised, loved and revered, but remember it’s just a comedy. It’s okay to laugh! Sometimes I feel that when we watch a fancy-sounding, famous, french film, we forget that these films are supposed to be fun.¬† This film is silly. There is slap-stick and silly jokes, as well as drama and wit. This was made for the general public, like you and me, not an elite group of academics. So, have fun while you watch. Just because it’s old and french doesn’t mean it’s going to put you to sleep! So, sit back with some popcorn (or maybe a baguette or a nice pain au chocolat?) and enjoy.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! ūüėÄ

Throne of Blood [ŤúėŤõõŚ∑£Śüé-Kumonosu-j√ī]

Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa (1957) [110 minutes]

I adore watching adaptations. Some are truly awful, taking the original work and tearing it to proverbial shreds. On the other hand, some are brilliant. These take a familiar story to a new, fascinating place. I love seeing how different cultures, generations, or mediums interpret the tale. In Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa takes Shakespeare’s Macbeth (If you need a summary/refresher on the Scottish Play click on that link) and transports the play¬† to Feudal Japan. Macbeth is probably my favorite of the Shakespearean dramas. Watching one of my favorite directors, Kurosawa, make it a film, is a true delight.

Kurosawa takes many liberties with the plot of Macbeth. He crosses this masterwork of British drama with his native Japan’s Noh theater. Noh is a medieval form of extremely stylized, high theater. The basic story of Macbeth remains in the film, as well as the themes that drive through it, but the visuals are unlike anything we would see on Shakespeare’s stage.¬†The acting illustrates this beautifully. While watching the film the facial expressions seem a little exaggerated. The performances may appear over the top to American eyes, our theater tends to be more naturalistic. In Noh the actors wore masks to represent different characters and emotions. In Throne of Blood, he doesn’t go that far, but he told his actors to mimic those masks with their expression and they wore makeup to further highlight that. You will see our Macbeth, called Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), and his Lady (Izuzu Yamada) use this hyper expressiveness a lot throughout the film. Until I found out about the Noh and the masks, I found it all enjoyable but still rather confusing. This is one of those cases that the more you know, the more you can enjoy the film. You don’t need to know much! Just a little bit about Noh and a little more about Macbeth and you’re good to go!

The narrative is structured in a circular format. That’s not necessarily a big deal, many movies start and end in the same place. The way that Kurosawa weaves this tale is different from most of what I’ve seen. It’s not just the final scene that is “repeated”, but many scenes throughout the film. In the beginning, there is a scene in deep fog, a conversation with the demon (who replaces the three witches from Macbeth) and a montage of the characters riding through the forest. You will see those scenes again at the end, but with a completely tone and context.

This storytelling technique, along with the Noh influence make you hyper-aware of the narrative structure. Nothing in the film is realistic, and there is no attempt to make it seem so. Personally, I find this kind of refreshing. Throne of Blood fully embraces that fantastical, poetic tone, which makes the film such a delight. The problem I have with many Shakespeare adaptations is that they really suck all the fun out of it. They’re so worried about the dialogue and how faithful they are to the play. It becomes a bunch of people showing off how great they are at acting and British accents. You watch them in high school just so you don’t have to struggle through the written play. With Kurosawa’s version you may not get an A on that English paper on Macbeth, but hey, that’s what sparknotes is for!

Nerdy Linguistics Moment: The Japanese title literally means “Castle of Spider’s Web/Spider’s Web Castle.” I can see why they changed the English one, though. Throne of Blood sounds more enticing.

Famous Fans: According to this article¬†T. S. Eliot said that this was his favorite movie! If you don’t buy my recommendation, you’ve got to believe him ūüėõ

Commentary Critique: The commentary for this film is among the best I’ve ever heard. It was so informative and entertaining. A little tip: I generally watch commentaries while doing some menial task (like laundry); that way you are getting something done and learning something in the meantime!

How to watch: The dialogue isn’t too important in the film. Sometimes I noticed that I hadn’t been reading the subtitles for the last few minutes… oops! This film is so visual, though, that you really don’t miss a beat. You learn much more by what you can see, rather than what you hear.

Who to watch with: Again, this film won’t help you with your English test on Shakespeare, but I found that I learned more about what the play is truly about by watching this. So watch this with Shakespeare fans and non-Shakespeare fans (hopefully this will convert them!).

Final Verdict: You will have a good time watching this. Especially if you keep that Noh theater stuff in mind; the film will make much more sense. And even if you still don’t “get it,” just enjoy it. I still don’t understand why most of the stuff that happens goes on, but it didn’t take anything away from the experience. If anything, the mystery made it more entertaining.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! ūüôā

Laura

Laura, Otto Preminger (1944) [88 minutes]

The first time I watched Preminger’s Laura, I became a film fanatic.Watching this movie with my dad as a young girl is one of my favorite memories. Immediately after it was over, we re-watched the entire thing again, this time with the commentary. It turned this already interesting film into a completely fascinating experience. I loved learning all the detail that went into making this movie. The more I heard the more I wanted to know. After this, I practically devoured every movie I could find, especially film noirs, which quickly became my favorite genre.

The level of detail and the amount of subtlety in¬†Laura is lost on a first time viewer. This is the type of film that you¬† must watch over and over and over again… But don’t be discouraged! It’s still very good the first time you watch it (what’s the point if it isn’t?).

The film starts off with Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), investigating the murder of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). She was shot in the face with a double-barreled shotgun in the dead of night. He questions and investigates the myriad of characters that surrounded Laura in life. Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) is a wealthy writer who acts as her mentor. Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) is Laura’s bumbling, ladies man of a fianc√©e, who has been living off her aunt’s, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), fortune for quite some time. All these people divert and draw suspicion to themselves throughout the film. You never know who to trust. The film has some very shocking twists, yet the story is still believable. I abhor when I watch a movie and there is a twist out of nowhere that is “surprising”, but it’s pathetically nonsensical rather than being well-written (and Laura is certainly the latter).

Preminger shot this film in the “invisible camera” style, popular in Classic Hollywood era. In this style, audience doesn’t/shouldn’t¬† notice when or how the camera moves or any evidence of editing. The purpose is to fully focus the viewer on the story and have them ignore the mechanics behind it all, which tend to “destroy” the illusion. Achieving this style is not as simple as it sounds. The camera has to always be where it needs to be, largely keeping its distance from the characters allowing the audience to act like a detective who analyzes and observes the action. In addition, the camera zooms into closeup so rarely that when it does it adds weight to the moment.

This film is atmospheric. Like a dream, it is not a gritty detective story: fast and impatient. The film takes its time, showing us all the characters, their different stories and flaws. The amount of detail in the set designs is outstanding. Laura and all the suspects are very wealthy. Their homes contain a great amount of antiques, art and other expensive looking objects. Some of these things play a huge role in the narrative, almost becoming characters themselves.

The biggest factor in creating the dream-like mis-en-scene has to be the portrait of Laura [pictured above]. Located in her apartment, a large amount of the action happens around it. When I heard the commentary track, I found out some interesting things about the painting. Apparently, while they were filming the movie, they treated this object like it was another person in the frame. The way that it was lit, composed and positioned in relation to other actors was as if it where Gene Tierney herself. As the film progresses we see the detective become enamored with the murder victim. He becomes obsessed with the portrait; he gazes at the painting and it seems to look right back at him. There is one moment in the film, during one of the major twists, were the painting is very haunting and almost surreal in relation to its surroundings (sorry to be so vague! I just don’t want to spoil it, if you want more specifics ask in the comments bellow. Believe me you will love it!).

On the surface, this film appears simple. It is very short and it can seem like not a lot is happening (it takes a while to “get started”). Most of the scenes center around dialogue rather than action. The twists, however, are shocking and fun! I was just re-watching it with my brother before writing this review. He was having a great time trying to guess who the murderer was. I think you guys will like this film. It is not a big time commitment and you get much more than you would expect out of it.

[I was going to put a trailer here but all the ones I saw were either too long or full of spoilers!]

Musical Moment: Don’t worry, no one breaks out in song and dance (it would be a little out of place!). I just wanted to mention the film’s score, written by David Raskin. It’s the song playing throughout this trailer. It is so perfect for the film! Its one of those scores that elevates an already great movie to another level.

Special Features: The commentary tracks are very good. They are informative and entertaining!

Adaptations: I know that this is originally a book. I have it on my pile of books I have yet to read, which has been largely untouched throughout the school year. Have any of you who read the books think that this is a good adaptation? I’m curious to know.

How to watch: This one you can watch in English (I bet you thought I would never say that). I watched the DVD and the quality was pretty good, but not great. I looked on Amazon and I don’t see any Blu-ray options available, but we better get one very soon. Also, watch this on a stormy night, film noir always seems even better when its miserable out.

Who to watch with: There is a lot of dialogue in Laura. Make sure that you watch it attentively. Also, its pretty good for bookish kids, like I was. With all the dialogue and atmosphere it feels like a really great novel at times.

Final Verdict: Maybe I’m a little bias, I mean I really love this movie. I’ve loved it for so long and I adore re-watching it. It is smart, stylish, suspenseful, mysterious, dreamy and overall wonderful. If it can inspire this much passion in me, you really must give it a try.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! ūüôā