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acabe

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Posts posted by acabe

  1. With that first line, “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died,” the film immediately grabs our attention.  Like M, that line is spoken against a dark screen and would have been great at setting the mood in a dark movie theater.  The camera slowly pans over all the expensive objects on display, giving us an indication that to Leydecker, Laura was one of the prize items in this collection.  I am intrigued by the lingering shot of the masks on the wall.  There is a huge amount of symbolism there, and it’s especially fitting for a murder mystery.  The shot of Leydecker writing in the bath reminds me of David’s Marat too, and I wonder if that is foreshadowing anything.  It also sets up Leydecker’s character too.  He is cultured, egotistical, very comfortable with his own nudity in front of another man (which, like others have said, could code him as gay, or possibly bisexual), and he is extremely skilled as turning a phrase.  It’s that last one that I’ve been thinking about the most.  Leydecker says that he is the most misquoted man in America, and yet, it is his words that help set the scene for us.  There is a very good possibility that our narrator is unreliable, and it will be that much more difficult to find out the truth.

     

    So true! The fact that the first things we see are Waldo's prized, clearly expensive and elegant acquisitions as he intones, "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died," tells us a lot about him as a person:  that he is an aesthete who prizes the material and appearances and that his most important feature is his way with words. This sets him up in contrast with the Detective McPherson, who is a more stereotypically masculine detective (all through Waldo's words about his deeds as well). This isn't even getting into the contrast presented by a more stoic and dressed up Detective McPherson with the naked and verbose Waldo in the tub. 

     

    *spoilers*

     

    Something I'd like to explore, as I have seen the film, is how others take Waldo's (ultimately murderous) obsession with Laura squares with how powerfully Waldo codes as gay. I never bought him as being really that romantically/sexually interested in Laura, but I don't think it's just aesthetic either. I suppose it might have to do with the Svengali nature of his relationship to her? That he essentially turned this naive girl into a powerful, glamorous woman (or so he thinks?).

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  2. I know very little about this movie (love Bette Davis, though!), so all my impressions are made blind, from the opening. 

     

    I'm really struck by how the crowded quarters of the mostly sleeping Malay workers are foregrounded initially and then how we are introduced to the shooting — it's shot at a distance, so it almost resembles looking at a stage. Even the way the trees and vines hang around the shooting makes me think of curtains. Sound works great here, too. Just gentle nighttime chatter before the shot, heightened by that white bird's flight. 

     

    Even down to the costuming — Bette Davis looks supremely regal and just really really looming in that long gown/robe, which adds to that eerie serenity as she's gunning down the man. 

     

    I'm also struck by how *surrounded* she is by the workers, but there's never any sense of fear or tension. The workers are curious, but they follow her orders. She shows no fear whatsoever and seems to expect them to follow her. That's power, in this colonized place. She stands out. 

     

    So, to answer the questions — the sound and set design and the way the camera moves really does add to the shocker of the shooting. All calm nighttime chilling then the violence. And as for how it contributes to noir, I think the use of shadow and light — huge contrast between the shadowy workers' quarters and very bright, white house — and the powerful, dangerous female figure in the person of Bette Davis. Very interesting. I'm excited by this film, and does anyone know good postcolonial criticism? (Just the setting implies there would be). 

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