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Daily Dose of Darkness #5: Soaking in Noir (The Opening Scene of Laura)


484 replies to this topic

#21 BSquirrel

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Posted 18 June 2015 - 01:28 PM

The thing that makes Lydecker's introduction so funny is his deadpan delivery. He's in an absurd setting, but he behaves as if it's business as usual. It speaks volumes about his character with just the visual alone. It's unexpected, but at the same time it's quite easy for me to accept as a viewer because of the character's "normal" tone. 

 

The fact that he is naked is also a juxtaposition to his lavish surroundings, making him more than he seems. As I've said before in this course, Noir gives the viewer credit for making connections. 



#22 sublymonal

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Posted 17 June 2015 - 10:57 PM

-- What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"

 

I definitely see what Frank is saying in this opening scene. Lydecker's home is far less gritty than the settings of other Film Noirs we've seen. As for faces, the first half of the scene is spent with us studying McPherson's expressions as he walks around the room. Generally the detective is stoic and unflappable, but from what Lydecker tells us about McPherson, there's more to him than meets the eye.

 

-- What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

I actually chuckled when we first saw Lydecker in the tub with a typewriter and binder set out in front of him and I think that was intentional. He seems a bit off the wall and with the discrepancies in his testimony, as pointed out by McPherson, we get the sense that he isn't all there and might just be the one who did it. I think that scepticism and distrust is very true to the film noir style.

 

-- In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

As I said, the opening scene establishes scepticism and distrust. We have the detective genre cropping up again and we've got the voiceover, which gives us more information than we'd get from just watching the scene on it's own. Again, there's an emphasis on a clock, like in M, which makes me think that time (e.g. the importance of it) might be a prevalant theme in Film Noir.



#23 SwooningOverCinema

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Posted 17 June 2015 - 04:49 AM

~ What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces"?

The camera pans around the lavish apartment in deep focus slow enough that we get a really good look at the decor; it is not ignored, out of focus in the background, merely there to set the scene. Lydecker informs us twice how priceless these items are, this and his style of choice are key to informing us about his character. We also get a good look at the 2 men in the scene and can easily read thier expressions, and there are statues and masks adding to the faces.

 

Preminger introduces Waldo Lydecker to us 3 times: 1)voiceover 2)introduces himself as he is writing 3)we see him.

-As to his writing in the bath I believe he is just trying to stay cool; "it was the hottest Sunday in my recolection", he has no A.C. the patio door is open, and NY feels empty: alot of people would escape the heat by going out of town (as in The Seven Year Itch).

-Recieving a guest while in the bath seems weird and Lydecker is an odd guy, but if he sees policemen as mere servants not on the same level as himself it is socially acceptable. He obiously has a massive ego and seems to enjoy 'putting people in thier place' and showing off his intellect to prove he is superior.

 

The opening of Laura is important to noir style because its characters have such depth, the voiceover isn't done by the hero detective, the title character is already dead before the film begins, and the posh settings, all challenge the usual formula of noir.



#24 bernie_gunther

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Posted 16 June 2015 - 12:07 PM

One of my favourite films noir. Incredible way to start a film:  "I shall never forget the weekend that Laura died". That really catches your attention from the beginning.



#25 micelwulf

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Posted 16 June 2015 - 11:38 AM

What struck me was the difference in Lydecker's voice over narration, which seems oddly poetic but dark, and his almost 'bright', but similarly intellectual, emotionally detached tone when 'met' as a character.  That detached, emotionless stance (very matter-of-fact) when confronting, matter of factly, something dark & sinister seems to me to be a hallmark of noir.

 

As others have noted, the camera exploring setting props & furnishings works very effectively to establish more about the voice we are hearing before we see & meet the man. Carefully choreographed with objects appearing on cue with voiceover  - the female goddess statue centre frame when Laura is mentioned,  glass items in the cabinet as the words "magnifying glass" - reference to New York and we imagine it's just outside the open doors but not quite seen. Then "I was alone" and into view comes a chair, empty at a table looking poignantly cosy.

 

In hindsight, quickly, we read this as Lydecker's space, but until the detective is mentioned and comes into view this isn't confirmed, and indeed until the clock is identified as one of only two, you don't know if Laura lived in the same house. And the co-ordination of word & image continues with "I could watch him" heard as the detective looks at the watching mask arrayed on the wall, not to mention the portrait in the background.

 

Certainly I'd love to be able to watch the film in it's entirity after this opening!



#26 Loralee

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 06:15 PM

As far as being a "study of faces", we get to study the detective's face as does the narrator, because he "makes him wait" and can see him through the half open door.

I was shocked the first time I saw this movie that the narrator was naked in the bathtub.  There weren't even any bubbles to hide things.  It was still shocking the second time. It does put you out of balance.  If this person was to be left alone by Laura's death, it is strange that he spent the time documenting his every move at the time, instead of grieving.

I am new at studying film noir, but I noticed the repetition of the theme of showing a ticking clock at the beginning of the movie.  In this film the clock is so very important. 



#27 Takoma1

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 02:31 PM

The idea about the study of furnishings and faces definitely made me notice far more the way that the furnishings (the apartment setting) is frequently allowed to take the foreground, obscuring or totally hiding the characters (such as when Andrews passes behind the column, or when he stands behind the glass case (I feel like in another movie that shot would have been from his side of the glass).

 

I like the introduction of Lydecker. The lavish apartment combined with some of the style of the furnishings (like the monogrammed towels or the overly ornate use of marble) made me worry the first time I saw the movie that his character would be some horrible gay stereotype. There are elements (such as him asking for the washcloth or stepping out of the tub in full view of Andrews) that could have easily played into a kind of "evil gay" homophobia. Instead we get a character who is quirky in an interesting way, and I like the admiration and interest he shows Andrews' character when he realizes who he is. I like the matching look of surprise on Andrews' face when Lydecker is so easily able to recall the events of the shootout and his role in it. That exchange is a nice echo of the earlier moment when Andrews quotes from memory Lydecker's statement about Laura's death.

 

Lydecker is a fun character because he is a wordsmith who openly admits to bending the truth in the interest of a good story ("Oh, I think my version was better"). It makes for a great contrast with the more blunt verbal style of Andrews' detective. I love characters who admit up front to being deceptive--it keeps you on your toes.

 

There's also something to be said for the voice-over getting right to the point: Laura (the titular character) has been murdered. Not only that, but has suffered a "horrible death." Even though Lydecker selfishly filters her tragedy through his own suffering ("I felt like the only person in New York", etc), it creates an immediate intrigue about how and why she died.



#28 Rasulka

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 02:15 PM

The opening scene of Laura indeed suggests a "charming character study of furnishings and faces."  

 

The camera slowly pans across Waldo's cluttered, almost claustrophobic apartment.   

The furnishings commence with a view of a Hindu goddess statue, curios in a glass cabinet, the clock (with its twin in Laura's apartment we are told).   Det. McPherson wanders the room, then stops and ponders a wall of masks.  He stops at the exact location, such that his head lines up with Laura's face in the painting.  He walks over to the clock, intrigued.  He ends up at the curio cabinet.  So intrigued, he reaches in and grasps a priceless item!

 

The viewer is then invited into Waldo's bath to "soak in the noir".  Meet Waldo: the "perverse writer":   

-  "It's lavish, but I call it home."   

- "My version is superior.  I never bother with the details."

- "Hand me a washcloth.... Hand me my robe."  

- "Just yesterday morning, her body was found... I had just begun to write her story."

And that YUMMY marble bathtub with typewriter. 

 

I have not watched Laura.   This introduction makes me feel:  I do not trust Waldo.   Yet, I would like to follow him around.  Why?  I guess because he is charming and amusing! 



#29 Cinemapeg

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 10:00 AM

"Soaking in noir" -- very catchy. The introduction taking us directly into the center of this noir, begins with the viewer immediately having several questions, following Lydecker's voice over, which is a key in the great noir examples.

First the detective in introduced, leading the viewer to further questions. The "masks" as mentioned, Lydecker's clock versus McPherson's watch all demonstrate class distinction; the gumshoe and the Hearst-like collecting Lydecker. The clock, the music conspire together, creating a noir sensibility.

Between Lydecker's obvious skill with writing, and the everyday work of McPherson, Lydecker relys on "reading" to the detective, and the detective, not allowing himself to be bullied, continues Lydecker's narration, showing he is not distracted by either the success, nor the word tactics of Lydecker

Asking McPherson to fetch his washcloth, and his robe, are clear power plays, and the nakedness of Lydecker is a bit of a joke, as Lydecker seemed to be stating "I have nothing to hide," despite his wealth, the clothed man has an advantage over the unclothed Lydecker.

The detective is nonplussed by the wealth and the wit; he will not stop (alluded to, when Lydecker shares how McPherson ran in to take on a gang, where 3 other officers had been killed)

#30 bclarke18

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 08:38 PM

It is a study in furnishings and faces as the affluent room is panned and we get a feel for the person who lives here. He lives a cold and structured life with his varied collections. I also like that one never assumes in a film that the bad guy is the narrator. We are taught to trust the narrators in movies and in life. What a great technique to use the bad guy to lead us down the dark path.


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#31 Thief12

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 06:41 PM

To answer the "Daily Dose" question of examples of Laura being a "charming character study of furnishings and faces", in less than five minutes we have a clear idea of who is Lydecker and who is McPherson, or at least who the director wants us to think they are. Lydecker is pompous and self-absorbed while McPherson is a straight-talker, no beating around the bush.

 

 

 

 



#32 Karl H.

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 06:07 PM

- The collectables are diverse and not all necessarily complement the
  elegant furnishings in the room.  The detective is decidedly non-
  elegant and incongruent in the elegant room.  The narrator’s voice  
  did not quite match the person we finally see.

- Lydecker being in the bathtub, and then asking a stranger for a
  wash-cloth, then a robe is unexpected and makes the character
  strange and somewhat interesting.

- The detective’s dialogue was spot on for the situation, but I
  thought Lydecker reading his notes on the previous questioning was
  an irritating device for presenting exposition.

 



#33 Fmandosa

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 06:29 PM

This is sort of a combination response to #s 1 and 2...

 

From the very opening shot, the viewer is treated to a pan shot of Lydecker's living room/study that is full of collectibles, antiques, and above all, masks. I do not think that the visual motif of a mask was any accident. We are led to conclude immediately that this Lydecker, whose voiceover narration is calm, self-assured, and somewhat snarky, is hiding something. Pan over to our first glimpse of him as he soaks in a tub and welcomes a stranger into the bathroom, and he proceeds to offer a seemingly prepared alibi. What is this "mask" he is apparently putting on for McPherson's benefit? At the risk of sounding strange, I do think it is ironic that the screenplay has Lydecker in a bathtub of all places - he is obviously revealed to McPherson as he rises from the water and physically vulnerable in the sense that nothing is "hidden." But because Lydecker is also rather brazen in his attitude and demeanor, the question is: who really has the upper hand here - Lydecker or McPherson? 


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#34 ebegley2

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:55 PM

1. What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"

 

Some examples of a character study of furnishings and faces in Laura come from Lydecker, and some from McPherson. Lydecker's narration reveals him to be a self-important, verbose snob, wedded to trappings of taste, but his "lavish" (his word) abode shows ostentation among his ecelectic collection, which includes masked faces.

 

Or are they death masks? He wears a mask himself which McPherson sees through, as when McPherson reads him a column written 2 years ago that Lydecker wrote about which had a similar M.O. that killed Laura: a shotgun, point-blank. This indicates the research done by the detective, something the 2 previous detectives overlooked. Lydecker refers to him admiringly because McPherson carries gun wounds in his leg as a reminder of his past courage.

 

Although McPherson himself has no taste (he's intrigued by double-blown glass, dose not close the glass door after opening the case of "treasures" nor does he actually stop to admire the grandfather clock; he merely checks his own watch against the time on the piece.

 

The idea is to demonstrate that one man lacks "taste in furnishings" while the other has bought every taste he could, to give an impression of good taste and character. They are opposites in both furnishings and character.

 

 

2. What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

Preminger knows his audience will at first be taken in by W.L. as the narrator, the wealthy wit, the extravagant collector who is seemingly comfortable in his own skin while still puffing up his ego with self-congratulatory recognition of Mark McPherson's history.The director depicts W.L. sitting above others (his bath has a step), exalted by his power of the written word to influence, yet he assures us that W.L. is essentially harmless, as we glimpse his lightweight anatomy. Had Preminger excluded that angle, we'd have not seen the bony chest.

 

 

3. In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

Many noir films begin outside, much as we viewers are "outsiders," and then "enter" a noir world, the way we watch ourselves go inside the mind and matter of the main character.

 

Laura, on the other hand, opens within the world of the narrator, not only withIN, but he is IN a tub, naked, so the viewer sees him truly from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Despite this, we wonder about his vulnerability.


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#35 michaeljhuman

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:39 PM

What was certainly striking about Waldo Lydecker is the quick transition from hearing him narrate the scene, to appearing on screen in the bathtub! Certainly an eccentric character to welcome a detective into his home that way.

 

The museum-like setting with expensive trinkets could assume a materialistic and possessive person - could he also feel the same way about Laura? The beautiful younger woman may be just that, another trophy for him, rather than someone he loved or cared for.

 

The high-class setting of this opening scene is a contrast compared to the dark alleyways and cheap motels of other noirs. It shows that dark seedy characters can appear in any walk of life, that darkness can hit you at any level or social status.

 

I like your idea of museum connection.  Certainly an interesting theory


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#36 friendo55

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:32 PM

What was certainly striking about Waldo Lydecker is the quick transition from hearing him narrate the scene, to appearing on screen in the bathtub! Certainly an eccentric character to welcome a detective into his home that way.

 

The museum-like setting with expensive trinkets could assume a materialistic and possessive person - could he also feel the same way about Laura? The beautiful younger woman may be just that, another trophy for him, rather than someone he loved or cared for.

 

The high-class setting of this opening scene is a contrast compared to the dark alleyways and cheap motels of other noirs. It shows that dark seedy characters can appear in any walk of life, that darkness can hit you at any level or social status.


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#37 sassygrrl

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:28 PM

What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"

 

Examples to me are the amazing apartment and his belongings. He even at one point is like, "Don't touch that!"

 

What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

 I also consider him gay. His love for Laura doesn't seem to be "romantic." in any way. He just loved his artifacts. 

 

 

In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style? Clocks ticking.  There's also some interesting camera angles, as well as the narration. 



#38 jrvillarin

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 02:26 PM

-- What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"

 

The entire movie is visually lush, with images of affluence contrasted by those of the detective who seems almost like an intruder in this high-end setting, metaphorically illustrated by McPherson's handling the item in the curio, and being admonished for doing so (with a reference, of course, to the value of the item). Having seen this movie many times before, I know that it is rife with images of furnishings and faces (with their own interesting stories) that serve to add extra layers of intrigue in addition to, and as part of, the main story. We spend the better part of this movie studying the expressions of all the characters, and we see contrasts between the furnishings of the wealthy places and the decidedly modest surroundings, for example, of Laura's apartment, a subliminal message reminding us about the existence of these two "worlds" and that this girl crossed the threshold from one side to the other, with interesting consequences.

 

 

-- What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

The portrayal of the Lydecker character immediately makes us wonder, right away, what exactly was the relationship between Laura and this eccentric person, and one might assume any number of things: that he was obsessed with her, as this object of beauty, without coveting her sexually (an implication about the dubious nature of his own orientation); or maybe that he was a stupid older man who had been used by this beautiful young woman who was getting an entrée into high society. There seems to be no doubt, at any rate, that Lydecker will be a very important character in this story

 

 

-- In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

The narration by a central character during an opening scene is very much associated with film noir style; also, the high class setting of the scene signals a story that is not going to be played out in tenements, alleyways or cheap motels-- something of a pleasant departure, at least visually, from the usual story, and represents a forward evolution in film noir, from predictable social settings, to more elaborate ones.



#39 Steve413

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 01:31 PM

I've already seen this great film, so I already have quite a formed opinion of Waldo Leydecker. What always strikes me in this opening is his arrogance-- The obvious personal museum of treasures, but also his receiving the detective in the bathtub?!? Anyone else would have excused a guest, dressed, and then had the conversation. His popmposity is apparent in his manner of speaking and what he says as well. When McPherson points out that he misreported facts concerning a murder, Leydecker claims that his version must have been better. What a nerve! This guy oozes class, but even more so he oozes grossly overfed ego. Such a memorable character. And for those who have seen the film (spoilers), I was always intrigued by his relationship with Laura. Clearly he wants to possess her like one of his treasures, but is the attraction physical at all? He seems to love and hate her at the same time. Is it because she rejects his affections, or is it that he truly wants to be Laura or in the very least is jealous of all the male attention that Laura attracts?

Someone in the course comments posited that Lydecker is gay and i agree with that reading.  His "love" for Laura is not romantic at all but more in the nature of obsession with another beautiful object for his collection of artifacts.  As to McPherson, Lydecker is initially dismissive of him in the opening scene, but becomes very interested when he recognizes the name of the cop hero that he himself had written about.  It's just then that stands up naked and asks for his robe.  He's snob enough only to be romantically interested in a guy who is not just physically attractive, but who has media notoriety.


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#40 shivali

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 11:31 AM

The narrator describing the sun like a magnifying glass, simultaneously lot of glassware is displayed in his house. Very fragile look. His voice is very haunting. Clocks ticking One after another, mention of a similar clock in Laura's house.
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