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LAURA
1944 - Otto Preminger
United States
22
Opening Shot

The opening titles are significant to the film because it introduces us to both the films lovely musical score and the definitive picture frame image of Gene Tierney / Laura, both of which provide the film haunting undertones. The visual style is also set in the opening shot - a circling pan across the room before stopping at the film leading man played by Dana Andrews. As he looks through the room he is called from a voice offscreen ("Careful there. That stuff is priceless. Come in here please.") In a whip pan, we are introduce the film other leading man (getting his entrance from sitting in a bathtub), played by Clifton Webb. These two contrasting men set this layered and genre defining masterwork in motion, with one distinct similarity: there obsession with Laura.

The Film

"Love is eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout history. Love is stronger than life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of death." Otto Preminger's Laura is one of my favorite film-noir classics. Lead by a haunting, beautiful musical score the film has a such absorbing quality. The acting, lead by Dana Andrews and the always(!) beautiful Gene Tierney is perfect as ever. Also cinematography is stunning and perfectly captures the film noir atmosphere, the dialogue is sharp, and the twist ending is superb. Laura is truly a brilliant artistic achievement. It's hypnotic and mesmerizing mysteries are captivating and quite seductive to experience. It's a film a many dark and haunting themes and depths, but ultimately is an examination of obsession. The detective is someone you can relate with and Laura is the kind of women any man could be obsessed with, whether she is dead, alive, or simply a dream. This is filmmaking at it's absolute finest and most flawless. Irresistible to ignore, and impossible to forget. Notice the way Preminger masters uses the camera and the way it effortlessly moves (something very rarely executed in film noir, especially as perfectly as it is here). Laura remains one of the greatest films of the magical 1940's Hollywood cinema.

The Filmmaker

Born in Austria, Otto Preminger made just one film in his native country before moving to Hollywood where he became a pioneer. After 1934 Hollywood enforced its Production Code, which set many 'moral rules' on films of the era. Preminger was one of the key figures in finally removing the Production Code upon the 1953 release of The Moon Is Blue. The film was the first in Hollywood since 1934 to be released without the Code's "Seal of Approval'. Over the course of the next several years Hollywood went through many changes with the Production Code before it was finally eliminated in 1968 (the Code was replaced by today's rating system based on maturity level). Preminger was also a key figure in removing the 'Blacklist'. Preminger hired and gave screen credit to 'Hollywood Top 10' Dalton Trumbo upon the release of 1960's Exodus, which paved the way to eliminating the black list. After beginning his career working in studio genres (including some of the very best film noirs ever made- or at least my personal favorites), Preminger would join the likes of Elia Kazan, Stanley Kramer, and John Houston by making 'message pictures' during the 1950s. These films were serious, mature, and socially and politically driven films that were considered controversial and important for their time. These are the films that would define the rest of Preminger's career (notably Anatomy of a Murder, Advise & Consent, The Man With a Golden Arm, The Cardinal, Exodus, and Bunny Lake is Missing). Preminger was an understudy to the great Ernst Lubitsch and his films share a similar daring sexual and social undertone (though without restrictions of a Production Code). One of Preminger's great strengths is creating an emotional atmosphere, and this was achieved several different ways. Among them was his use of musical score (notably the brilliant jazz scores in Anatomy of a Murder and The Man With a Golden Arm; and of course the classic score of Laura). Also creating the atmosphere is his collaboration with masterful title designer Sal Bass as well as Preminger's innovative use with camera movement and crane shots (particularly effective after the 1954 release of River of No Return).

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