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


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This really throws a wrench in the plans (per say)... To hear stories of this "Laura" girl, after her death, brings up so many questions. And what makes it even eerier, is the narriation that goes on as its happening before our eyes. Mr. Lydeker is actually writing his story as its unfolding in front of him, which brings up the question: "Is he guilty?" 

 

It's amazing writing, and structure to have the movie open this way. And to have such an idea of a character that is already dead, is brilliant. I am sure later in the movie, we do get a visual of Laura, and see who she is, but, for the Femme Fetale, just knowing that she is already dead, makes her that much more interesting to follow with questions that burn from go. Who is she? Why is she dead? Who killed her? How did this Lydeker guy know so much? Why is he so calm? and so on... This is one way the contribution of Film Noir, is the questions that comes along with who these people are. 

 

It's as if we are thrown into these lives with no explaination, and we get some of those answers slowly. Its a really interesting take on the film narritive, but it's fun to sit and be able to try to figure out a story like in this style of film. 

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"Don't touch that stuff, it's priceless" sums it up. Clifton in the tub, Dana a bit thrown off. Clifton asks for a washcloth, Dana throws it in the tub. Watch Dana carefully as Clifton gets out of the tub. Dana glances down and smirks. Clifton is an obviously gay character that has done the unthinkable - fallen for a woman, and that becomes his downfall when he confronts himself with that realization and his overpowering ego.

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For me the opening scene felt like I was looking through the eyes of Waldo Lydecker. We were spying on the detective as he walked in and admired the room. For me that is a powerful technique because just listening to Waldo talk it feels as though he is hiding something, especially since he talked about the clock being the same one in the room where Laura died. It makes me question my own sanity a little and even question my morals if I know something is wrong but I am sitting in for that someone in a sense. 

 

The scan over the scenery is also telling because it seems Mr. Lydecker is wealthy just by the amount of stuff he has. This also brings up suspicion as historically wealthy people in movies are usually the bad guys! 

 

Then we are introduced to Mr. Lydecker and he is bathing away without a care in the world. He throws the detective off guard recanting a story of daring from the detective. This one scene also tells us the detective is a a classical hero as he single handedly took down a major criminal. 

 

I think the most important contribution made to Noir from this opening scene is the voiceover. Used in countless film noir's old and new this technique just seems to really grab an audiences attention and puts them immediately in this world. 

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Like other Hollywood Noir films, “Laura” starts with a bang - this apparent murder mystery catches my attention as a viewer right away.  Much of the preliminary action is covered in voiceover, which builds up some potential expectations, for one, that he, the narrator Waldo Lydeker, feels he will be a suspect immediately.  Also the tone and confidence of the voice suggest the narrator is speaking about past events and knows the outcome which proves even more enthralling to me.  There is something very powerful about using almost purely diegetic material, music excepted, to build interest in the narrative, as Preminger does here.

 

I think the entire mise-en-scene of this luxurious world builds up an almost voyeuristic quality that we, the audience, share with Lieutenant McPherson, as he lingers in the living room, waiting on our yet-to-be-seen narrator, who is the murderer, ultimately, and may have possibly, by the time he is now speaking apparently, foiled himself by means of his own words – words being the most critical attribute to Lydeker’s character and essential even to his profession. 

 

Via sweeping pan shots of Waldo’s apartment, we’re introduced to the privileged lifestyle he leads including all the furniture that Frank recalls in his essay.  The furniture being a subtext for much of what we’re just learning about the main characters, including Laura because we learn that she lives in the same privileged world.  The faces mentioned by Frank consist, first of Lieutenant McPherson, then of a group of ornamental masks on the wall that McPherson admires, before we even see the narrator.  There is both a suggestion of the theater, possibly of people acting and/or writing fiction, or of distorting the truth.  By having him linger over these masks as Lydeker speaks, I feel there’s a suggestion of McPherson as a wise arbitrator, more so than just a typical investigating detective. 

 

Further evidence of an emerging voyeurist subtext is in how Lydker watches McPherson through the half-open door and in how we, the audience, wander through Waldo’s shelves of glass objects with McPherson, as if we could see right through him.  But through who?  It substantiates the fear that Laura has been murdered but leaves the rest unclear.

 

The dour look that McPherson gives Waldo when he stands up in the bathtub off-camera embellishes this subtext of the voyeur.  In the 1940s men behaving so familiar among each other was only done in the locker room.  This would have been so unusual that it would have caught viewers off guard, even more so than today, and in doing so grab their attention even more so than it did me.  

 

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Daily Dose, "Laura:" What an opening! The first sentence reveals that the title character is dead.  Wow!  For its time, that must've been a shocker.  Get the popcorn, put the feet up.  This is gonna' be a good one!  Waldo Lydecker is an effete snob, one of those people who can't resist telling you how much he has or how much he knows, and how much less it is that you have and know, and how important and close he was to the murder victim.  He keeps baiting the detective, who refuses to play the game.  Waldo short circuits a bit when people aren't wowed by him and how much he has and how much he knows.  For example, when the detective picks up a glass item out of a showcase he tells him "that stuff is priceless." The Detective doesn't change his handling of it as he puts it down.  Not impressed.  He also downplays the ostentatious decor by saying "nice little place you got here" to which Lydecker can't help but jump in, almost correcting him with an overlapping, "It's lavish," delivered with great aplomb.  The detective takes everything in stride: Waldo's baiting, game-playing condescension and intimidation tactics. The Detective acknowledges then ignores every attempted game point thrown at him, flicking it right back as quickly as he flips the washcloth at Waldo when asked for it.  Nobody's gonna' keep this guy from doing his job.  Detective wins out: Waldo puts on a robe and gets out of the tub. What great fodder for a scene: a detective determined to talk about the murder victim and a witness determined to talk about himself!  

 

I went backwards on this one.  Here are some thoughts on the suggestions of the "Daily Dose" page:

 

What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?" Did they translate that correctly?  At least from this opening, I wouldn't hang "charming" on it. "Unsettling" perhaps.  The diversity of masks on the wall plus the opulent furnishings and artifacts that are also diverse create an uncomfortable feeling of indiscriminate excess, out of control.  Just because you buy very expensive individual ingredients, that doesn't mean the cake you bake with them is going to be delicious, or even make sense to your palate.  Once we meet Lydecker, the furnishings make sense.  He is not a man who subscribes to the "less is more" mentality!

-- What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene? It's very daring for the time.  Lydecker beckons the detective to join him in his bathroom, which resembles a roman bath of sorts.  What follows is a q&a that has various subtexts, one of which has Lydecker flirting. It's not unlike the infamous "snails and oysters" scene in Spartacus between Lawrence Olivier and Tony Curtis. I wonder if that scene was Kubrick's homage to this, in form and setting at least.  He asks him for the washcloth.  He pushes the typewriter table away to reveal himself. McPherson looks and smirks as if he knows what's going on and chooses to ignore it, or maybe even use it to his advantage. He knows exactly what's going on, isn't threatened by it, and passively plays along. Of course the detective has to be diplomatic; he does need intel, after all, so he takes in what's going on but doesn't react in an aggressively negative way.  Kudos to Otto, for being so provocative!  Someone else brought up the gay issue.  I think WL probably is, but he's so self-absorbed that he's most likely not active.  If nothing else, WL is the "nance" character prevalent at the time. Filmmakers couldn't be overt because of the code.  They did what they could, and this being this new and as yet unnamed type of "dark" film, they could push it a little further.  Notice the twinkle in Lydecker's eye when he finds out that McPherson is the big strong cop who got metal in his leg after a big manly shootout.  Also, earlier in the scene, Lydecker lets McPherson know he's been watching him through the open doorway.  My question is, if the detective were someone completely unattractive, would Lydecker have invited him in to the bathroom?  Or would he have called "I'll be out in a minute."??  Thoughts?

-- In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?  At it's most base level, the voiceover.  Also the fact that it reveals that the title character is dead is a message to filmmakers that "anything goes, here in this new budding genre, style and/or movement!" Also the roving camera, giving us a voyeuristic look into someone's private domain.  It lets us take in the scene without bodies getting in the way of our observation, so we become an active participant, something also present in later noir.

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During the opening scene the background music is what resonated with me.  I remember taking piano lessons in the late 60's and learning the song "Laura," music by David Raskin, lyrics by Johhny Mercer, title track for the movie "Laura."  At the time, I was  12 years old and knew nothng about film noir, let alone any movies because growing up my parents did not take me or my brother to the movie theatre.  I do remember the song though and that it was very beautiful\ and romantic, certainly not a song that I would imagine being connected to a murder!   My piano teacher recommended learning it because it had been very popular piece of music.

 

Fast forward many years later and I still enjoy playing the song on the piano.   I did find an interesting story about this music as described in Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs,(1972).   When the movie opened, the song was merely a background theme that recurred to identify the central character.  Unexpectedly, audiences went wild for the untitled music by Raskin and Twentieth Century Fox's music firm quickly commissioned Mercer to write appropriate lyrics.  Some months later, Woody Herman's recording made "Laura" a million seller!  The recommendation for playing the song is "slow and pretty."

 

I have never seen the movie Laura and look forward to watching it, I wonder if I will still consider the song romantic after I finally view this movie!

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From the very  beginnnig we know we are being dropped into an adventure in progress, in this case a murder investigation. In order for us to chatch up so to speak we must examine ourf surroundings and take not of whom we encounter.

 

The furnishings are interesting. Oftentimes in Noir films items shown in rooms provide a very subtle context for what is going on with the movie's big picture. Here we wee a man who collects tnings, enjoys the finer things and appears to live the good life.

 

The first two characters we meet are instanting jousting, albeit not in a completely combaative way. There is a very clever excahnge of word play here that sets up action later down the line.

 

Lydecker is introcuded in an interesting way. His narrative gives us arough idea of whom he is and then as he talks with the Detectiv eour imnage of him is filled out with depth and texture. we know tha the is a man who is clver and good and manipulation. We also get a distinct creepy vibe about him.

 

Then typewrite in the tub indicates that he is a man who never slows down or relents. he seems to be detail oriented and doesn't like to miss any important detail that could serve his best interests.

 

The film is an important contribution in that it uses a narrator to frame the action. we instantly know waht is going on by the sotry told to us by one of the central figures in the drama.

 

We also get a pan shot of the apartment beginning with the itmes displayed in glass.

 

There is also an element of time aluded to in the dialogue and also by hte ringing clocks.

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     After cinematography, set design and production are two of my favorite things about films in general and films noir in particular. In this scene, we get to know Lydecker through his furnishings and his own short narration, before we see him or understand his role in the film. When we are first introduced to the character he is unclothed and bathing, very much vulnerable. The detective invades his privacy symbolically by touching his belongings and physically by seeing him in the bath. Lydecker is more vulnerable as the scene progresses and even shows the detective his entire body at one point. This juxtaposition between raw human vulnerability and “lavish” material decadence is a great way to open the film. Lydecker is cloaked in things while physically naked, while the detective has nothing but clothes and a notebook.

 

     I like this introduction and think it was a great way to draw in the audience in an unsuspecting manner. The only connection we know of between Lydecker and Laura is his own confession that they have the same clock. From my perspective, it casts Lydecker as an unlikely suspect. He is physically vulnerable with the detective, keeps his story straight, and the only clue the detective has to this point is the common piece of furniture. Lydecker knows more about the detective than the detective knows about him, which disarms the audience, until the detective reveals his piece of evidence from two years prior.

 

     As mentioned above, one contribution this film provides to the style/movement/genre is its feature of class and wealth as a central element to the narrative, by way of objects. The producers use the set to introduce wealth and decadence as central elements of the film, before the plot is revealed. Lydeckers furnishings are used to reveal more about his character than any other element in the scene (rich, well traveled, presumably educated, etc.). This highlights the importance of set design and production in films noir. A dichotomy of masculinity also seems to be a principal element in this film and many other films noir. The audience is presented with a vulnerable, older, wealthy, presumably educated male, and a gritty, clever, street smart, stereotypically masculine, more ordinary male. This opening is unique and clever in many ways!

 

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Frank describes the film as a character study of furnishings and faces.  From the opening shot, it's clear that he is correct.  The camera, our point of view, is obscured by props in its movements as we explore the room, which reflects its owner, Waldo Lydecker, in its lush ostentation and voyeurism (especially evident in the masks as he watches the detective wait).  

 

By the time we see Lydecker in his bath, we already know from his surroundings that he is a wealthy, eccentric, collector of a man.  He likes to keep people waiting, controlling people as he collects and controls his oddities.  He is an odd duck to say the least, and the fact that he conducts business from his bath, surrounding with elaborately monogrammed towels, confirms our initial perception of him.

 

Laura's detective is set from the start against the lewd, debauched Lydecker.  McPherson all but sneers at the writer as he interviews him, and the viewer senses in that his rejection of the outre decay on display before him, revealing himself to be Lydecker's opposite.  

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What's interesting to me in reviewing just these opening shots of "Laura" is how they don't seem to contain any of the visual elements we would associate with noir (there'll be time for that later in the film). Indeed, Lydecker's apartment is brightly lit.

 

If there is not contrast in the lighting, there is in the characters of these two men. The condescending and superior Lydecker seen against the down-to-earth (apparently) McPherson. This contrast was a feature of the hard-boiled novels from which this movement arose. We have already seen this with Spade and Gutman and will see it again.

 

So from the very first, this is less a film about the title character (whom we are told from the first words of the story is already dead) than about these two men. They will circle each other throughout the film, taking the measure of each other, occasionally misjudging each other, all over the idea of a dead woman.

 

In the context of the time, the idea of McPherson, the man just doing a job of work, compared to the effete member of the upper class, might have had resonance among the everyday soldiers of WWII, but again this trope goes back to books of the '30s (though I suppose a similar resonance could have been felt in the Depression).

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As we listen to Lydecker’s voice over, we are viewing curios that look more like museum pieces than items one would find decorating a “home”.  This strikes me that Lydecker uses these to enforce the view he is someone of importance. As for Faces, The detective is kind of a nice looking average Joe but Lydecker has the sharp faced that reminds me of weasel.

Although the movie is called “Laura” it is Lydecker’s voice we hear in the voice over at the beginning of the scene. He is making this narrative all about himself and not the poor dead Laura.

Some important Noir style aspects are missing in the opening of Laura, There is actually little of the dark shadows and gritty environment we have come to expect in Noir films, rather it is this light filed environment that we are introduced to a murder and the detective who will travel down the rabbit hole to solve the mystery that is Laura. This shows that Noir doesn’t need a dark environment that the darkness can be found within the people themselves. This is evident in the revelation that Lydecker while writing a review several years earlier broke off to editorialize on a recent murder. The man who writes in his bath has an interest in grisly murders and if it isn’t grisly enough he will make it more so.

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The opening scene of "Laura" is fascinating in the way a) it announces at the outset the ostensible death of the character upon whom the film is named after, and for the way in which the camera scans the room, allowing the mise en scene (i.e. the apartment's furnishings) to inform our reading of Waldo Lydecker before we see him. I thought the point raised earlier in this forum about the connection between Lydecker's masks and his penchant toward voyeurism is interesting. I think it also foreshadows some of the duplicitous events that appear later in the picture, and which are hallmarks of the film noir genre. 

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The voice over narrative and titled character that is dead in the beginning are 2 very distinct styles of Film Noir. It immediately grabs your attention and right away you begin trying to figure out the murder along with the Detective.

Waldo Lydecker in the bath is a great introduction to this smug snobbish character who clearly enjoys his possessions. His furnishings are "lavish" as he tells Det. McPherson and we get the sense they will become prominent later in the film; especially that clock. The quiet, cool, observant detective is a characteristic seen in Film Noir as well.  

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The camera's slow pan of Lydecker's impeccably furnished apartment and then focusing on the detective seemed to be a subtle hint that the culprit had already been found and then for the story to follow on how it all ends. Why is Lydecker such an eccentric? As Lydecker sat in his luxurious tub and swatted away the questions of the detective, there almost seemed to be a tension between the two. Was it more than just the questions? The scenes and the dialogue capture the viewer's curiosity. A good start to this story.

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Mr. Lydecker seems to be a man of great taste. I can only assume laura was one of the fine things he collected. He seems to think he is above the law an smarter than most. What his money or wits can't get him out of his name an influence will. For whatever reason he does seem to care for laura. I didn't get the chance to watch the whole film an I am currently hunting it down. All the films seem to pull you straight into asking who,what,why.?

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Lydecker describes his apartment as lavish and I would agree.  Unlike the dark, foreboding, and sometimes minimalist beginnings that many films noir depict, this film begins by showing opulence.  The characters and surroundings are appealing.  If this was shot in color, would it have made a difference to the overall "noir" effect?  This film reminds me of American Beauty.

I was startled that Lydecker would allow a stranger to enter when he is naked in the tub.  It was just as attention-grabbing as the sound of gunshots or screech of a train to shock me to attention.  It made me wonder what type of person would behave like this.

 

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Glyndaa wrote:  "LOL, I'm interested in your opinion of whether Lydecker might have been gay.  I thought about it for a second and it immediately occurred to me that he was too self absorbed to be gay or straight for that matter......who was Lydecker really in love with? Quite obviously himself.....I believe he "groomed" Laura's character in an attempt to create someone who was actually worthy of his attentions.  This person would have to worship him no doubt....but we digress.....an interesting statement.  This viewpoint has never occurrred to me.....also, I have to say that it was certainly not obvious to me that Lydecker could have been the killer when the movie began although he was certainly under suspicion.  Why?  to me, he seemed very removed from the situation as he was narrative voice, perhaps this is film trickery by Preminger.  He certainly did have a flair for the dramatic!!!  any thoughts???"

 

Facts: 

 

1. The original script clearly stated that Lydecker was a gay male.

2. Lydecker was played by openly gay actor Clifton Webb. 

3.  Laura is not a "sexual" object for Lydecker, she represents  a "trophy' of his creation..  an arm piece like his other "precious things".  

4.  Other film historians such as Vito Risso of the documentary "Celluloid Closet" and others also back up this.  

5. Yes of course Lydecker is self absorbed (his sexuality esp in that day in age would have had to been repressed to some end).  

 

As for the all the clues I mentioned in my previous posts that Lydecker is the killer.  The obvious clues:

 

1. Lydecker is the narrator and we are pulled into his perspective from the beginning. Through the movie we see time and time his obsessive nature ..  "I showed Laura, how to act, I made her what she, I told her how to dress etc" 

2. The pan and lingering of the clock in Lydecker's as well as Laura Hunt's apt.  From the beginning we know that the clock will have an impact on the store.. also the metaphor that time is ticking away and we need to figure it out.

3. Lydecker's constant threat and put down of the other two main male characters. .  Lydecker feels threatened sexually by McPhearson and Vincent Price's character..  he uses banter like "Laura could never fall for a pretty boy in distress." 

4. The obvious freedom and sexual manipulation..  Lydecker seeing McPhearson in his bathroom..  and McPhearson's smirk when he throws Lydecker the robe.  These are a few . 

 

And yes..  the narration by Lydecker is suppose to confuse the audience that he is the suspect.  Obviously directors want to create suspense by audience members not being sure of the killer.   This is what makes Laura so great.    

 

Ironically McPhearson is just as sexually oppressed as Lydecker..  He is obsessed with the "idea of Laura" but has trouble opening up to her.  

 

All 3 male characters struggle with their personal vulnerabilities. 

 

Lydecker:  struggles with his repressed homosexuality, and uses his intellectual knowledge, his financial success and his banter to "one up" the other characters.  However ironically he is not as elegant as he claims..  his taste becomes over done... theatrical gaudy.. almost reminiscent of Liberace's home decorating..  

 

McPhearson, has been injured (we learn of his shooting injury)..  he is therefore not the perfect male virile..  he has been hurt in love as well which we learn..  He represses in carnal desire urges, he becomes shadowed by Lydecker and even pulled into his world..  manipulated

 

Shelby Carpenter:  vulnerable playboy .. immature gigolo that uses women for their money, prestige

 

An important theme, is that of all the main male characters are weak, broken...   disillusioned, cynical..  a typical theme of film noir.. 

 

The movie Laura is one of the most brilliant noirs of all time.. because it is indeed ambiguous, speculative, and highly psychological.  

The best art is subjective..  and therefore each viewer will find something different to focus on depending on background, and understanding.  

 

Thanks. 

The gay suggestion is good analysis, but too easy a guess for Webb's character. it's too easy of an red herring. Here's an opposite view of the same character, but MORE focused on the living room and not the bathroom (I copied my statement from canvas.net and it's also somewhere her on the board but I can't find it)..... Just seconds of fading in black, Clifton Web says what is the climax of the whole story at beginning. Laura was murdered, and we know immediately he loved Laura. The film is really the afterwards conclusion of the terrible crime. Web is obviously making hints about clues when he mentions the clock. The clock that has an exact copy at Laura's room where she was murdered. So immediately like Hitchcock who often says the clock is our "macguffen" an obvious clue and plot device, and so important to the plot that we even see Dana Andrew looking at the clock along with the camera's eye! It's telling us to take notice! The furnishing of Lyndecker's apartment are instant clues to his personality. He sophicated, educated man who values priceless things. Obviously, Laura was the most priceless because he talking about Laura from very beginning! The various items are made of fragile materials of glass and ceramic. The Masks possibly made of mud or plaster also be easily broken. Is Lyndecker wearing masks himself about who he really is? Is that why he likes them? Does he see Laura fragile? Her death seem to be like shattered glass to Clifton Web's character. However, the statues, and the clock are made of stone or marble. Such things are not so easily broken. So maybe the clock represents the time is fixed and cannot be undone. The past is the past. One more thing: the statues are of oriental women. There's even some images of women on the base reliefs of the fire place, and even a painting of a woman above the fireplace This guy loves the female form for it's beauty. Yet when we see what he looks like we know  this man had no shot getting Laura as his lover.  He's graying, he's also old,and from seeing above the water in the tub he is boney and thin. Yet he's intelligent, cocky, and very sure of himself. He's constantly thinking of ideas that he even types while bathing. His bathroom shows more marble, even beauty. There are less things of fragile value here, except a very large vase with lid above and behind his head. Is director saying that Waldo's brain is the great fragile thing of them all? All of this unspoken material and hints of our own amusing, and yet in three mins. of the movie we know a lot about Waldo Lydecker! Including that he's such a snob he has initials stamped on his towels "W.l." It's almost like a little Roman Emperor spa room, with Waldo as emperor. Besides set design which I personally believe is important to noir style, Web's awesome narration is part of the staple of the style. We see everything from his perspective, He even mentions how he see Andrew's through the crack of the door whereas we don't see him when the camera is looking elsewhere. Is the writer and director strongly hinting that this is the man who moves behind the scenes of our story, perhaps the chief suspect, and perhaps may be the one who did the murder? We as the audience can only ask why? That's another noir technique. The movies manipulate audiences so ask the why question, and sometimes they are shocked by the answer, hence Film Noir popularity even today. You just never know what people are going to do and why! Lydecker is complicated character, with many motives in his heart.

 

ADDENUM: Let's say your right and he is gay. That's not to say he didn't fall in love for Laura. He may have had a change of heart, people do all the time. Human beings are complicated things, and they a universe unto themselves a famous rabbi once said. Just when you think you know someone something pops out of their heart and soul that shows something new. This probably why such films like Laura constantly defy being fixed...there's always something new to learn about the human condition. Basically Lydecker viewpoint I just painted is a Caesar who has objects in the living room glorify women. It seems to me he worships the form, and to him Laura was ultimate essence of feminine perfection. Isn't interesting how two moviegoers can see two totally different views of the same character! Fascinating!

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I've seen Laura about three times now and it never fails to entertain.  I also always notice something different. 

 

In the beginning of the film, we're introduced to the character of Waldo Lydecker through his narration.  His apartment is very lavish and fussy.  It perfectly encapsulates the type of person Lydecker is.  I love that they focused on the clock twice in the opening scene, it and the matching one in Laura's apartment will become important later in the film.  The opening scene of the clock and Lydecker's accompanying narration about the clock is foreshadowing of the role the clock will play in the film.  Then when Lydecker steps out of the narrator role and is first seen on film sitting in a bathtub, I believe it shows the eccentricity, but also the no-nonsense side of his character.  He doesn't seem to care that Dana Andrews can see everything in that bubble-less tub and doesn't seem to care when he stands up asking Andrews for a towel.  The look on Andrews' face when he obviously has caught sight of Lydecker standing up out of the tub, nude, shows that he's rather amused by this character.  Lydecker's a weird fellow and I'm sure Andrews will keep an eye on him while trying to solve Laura's murder.

 

I agree with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces." Both Lydecker and Laura's furnishings play a large part in the film.  In Laura's apartment, there is a large painting of Laura that is the focal point of her living room.  As Andrews spends time in her apartment, he is drawn to Laura's portrait again and again.  Wondering what happened to this beautiful woman and what she could have seen in Lydecker.  Andrews' infatuation with Laura begins to consume his life and is a focus of the plot of this film.

 

Laura is an important contributor to the film noir style as it features narration and flashbacks which are common in many film noir.  This noir is different than some as it is decidedly more glamorous and less gritty than some of its predecessors.  This film demonstrates that even more affluent, more gorgeous people can get involved in gritty drama.  Laura also features a couple plot twists that are also common in noir.  Not everything is as it seems in noir.

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One of the best film noir openings ever. Fascinating that it isn't the hero of the story doing the opening narration. The Lydecker character is well established as eccentric, arogant and clever. He clearly hopes to keep the detective off guard by making him uncomfortable. His house us almost like a museum of this a rich person feels they should have to show their status. This sets the stage well for the story that follows that has the detective trying to navigate the world of the rich.

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

 

The openning shot starts with a statue of Buddha, the furnitures, the grandfather clock, to the detective, then to all the masks adorned on the wall. The furniture and masks are relling of a rich live lived by Waldo Lydecker. He is cultured, well travelled and wealthy.

The masks are a reflection on who the character of Waldo is? Man of many faces, an actor of a sort. We find out mabout his different faces as the plot unfolds.

 

 

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

 

Preminger introduces Waldo masterfully. It is simply exquisite. So much is shared visually before we set eye on the character. The V.O.  is sop telling of his character without using the tired exposition. He sets the story and the mood right out of the gates.

 

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

 

The eho what where how and why are set up right away. The mood, atmosphere and complicated characters are introduced. These charracters have secret, DARK SECRETS and they are going to take us on a shadowy path to thedarkest crevices of human psyche.

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This was a very interesting way to start a movie, almost with the climax of action already past with the character Laura being killed and now we're here to pick up the pieces and try to understand what happened.

 

I think right away when meeting the 2 characters that are seem to be at odds with each other neither one wants to tip their hand too much. As if they are keeping their faces hidden because they know that they can't reveal too much. With how opulent the house is I think it will show the contrast between the way people live with more money than what they know to do and also people who have less and live more normal lives. Such as the detective.

 

I really enjoyed how Lydecker was introduced as somewhat arrogant and someone with a superiority complex. Someone who would be willing to wander around naked while a detective was asking questions, seems to be quite narcissistic.

I feel as though his arrogance may be his downfall in this movie by reading a bit of the comments that he may be the main antagonist. 

 

This fits into noir in its contribution because of the interesting way to bring the viewers into the movie (with the opulence and the openness of the title character being already dead) They don't just sit and tell a story but they give you visuals and intrigue to pull you in.

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Some examples to support Frank's contention are the varied and interesting artifacts in Waldo's home.  It looks like the home of a world traveler and someone that likes the finer things in life.  When you hear Waldo tell the detective to not touch anything, you are expecting to see him standing in the doorway, not sitting in a very fancy bathtub.  Waldo establishes himself as being very (almost too) self-assured and you just know this will be his undoing.

 

The detective is not impressed with Waldo and is there to do his job.  When Waldo is reading his typed notes and explains why he has notes, the detective is already working things out in his mind.  He knows Waldo thinks he is too smart to get caught and all he has to do is find the thing that trips him up.

 

 

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