Sunday 7 August 2011

Movie Review: Eyes Of Laura Mars (1978)

A muddled film that tries to conceal its banal script with fluffy pseudo-psychology and chic sexuality, Eyes Of Laura Mars is a lot less clever than it thinks it is.

New York-based Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is an artistic photographer with a career on a rocket-fuelled upward trajectory: her vivid, glamorous in-your-face photos depicting scenes of violence and sex are all the rage in the art scene. But Laura's world begins to unravel when people around her start to get murdered, usually with a sharp object through the eyes. Much worse for Laura, she finds herself witnessing the murders while they occur, through the eyes of the killer.

John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) is the police lieutenant in charge of solving the murders. As the body count rises, instead of finding clues and interviewing witnesses he gets busy seducing Laura, and before long they are lovers, apparently not bothered too much that a lot people are getting their eyes poked out with scissors and other assorted sharp objects. The suspects include Laura's haughty agent (Rene Auberjonois), her ex-con driver (Brad Dourif), and her broke alcoholic ex-husband (Raul Julia). As suspects start to appear on the list of murder victims, it gets easier to spot the culprit.

The script by John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman introduces several unconventional elements: Laura Mars can see murders in progress through the eyes of the killer; her artistic photography appears to recreate old murder scenes that she has never laid eyes on; and late in the proceedings, a key character is revealed to have a complex split personality. Director Irvin Kershner is left high and dry, because the script fails miserably to explain any of these complexities, leaving a movie that is desperately attempting to be dangerous and relevant in a modern context floating instead in an easily dismissed supernatural realm.

The movie does occasionally boast a slick look, and is at its best in creating the glamorous photo-shoot scenes. But the acting is surprisingly at the B level, Faye Dunaway able to do little beyond opening her eyes wide, staring into the distance, and running around in almost mock terror. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones' wooden performance serves as a reminder why it took him almost another 15 years to mature into a respected actor.

Eyes Of Laura Mars is a routine slasher flick trying to dress up in silky lingerie, but unfortunately incapable of escaping the smell of cheap perfume.

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