Tommy Lee Jones
1 Hr., 43 Mins.
Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) sounds good on paper but ultimately gets lost in translation. It is meant to be an edgy vehicle for the decidedly square Faye Dunaway, whose titular fashion photographer is being terrorized by psychic visions of horrific murders. The visions themselves are not fragments of the future à la That’s So Raven but in-the-moment experiences that force Laura to see life through the killer’s eyes during his most bloodthirsty moments.
Laura’s work combines sex and violence with opulence perhaps only equaled by David LaChapelle — don’t rule out a photograph featuring semi-nude Veruschka look-a-likes surrounded by German shepherds and post-explosion muscle cars. Because the film is set in the 1970s, much of the population is, of course, disgusted by her disregard of good taste; the killer’s obsession with modeling his murder scenes after her spreads is fitting. But before long, it becomes ever apparent that, while the madman could easily spend the rest of his life targeting those closest to Laura, the woman he is dangerously infatuated with is the broad he’d like to Catherine Tramell the most.
Eyes of Laura Mars has been touted as a fine example of American giallo by the biggest genre fans, but such a title seems to be thrown about as an act of desperation rather than a genuine one. The movie retains none of the cool of the cult subgenre and magnifies all the recurring melodramatic faults. It could be a film aided by sizzling noir edges — the imagery surrounding Laura’s occupation is the best onscreen depiction of the sex-and-death-101 trope I’ve ever seen put to film — but it is much too stereotypically Hollywood glitz to be anything other than a white woman in trouble cheese-fest.
With a story straight out of a hallucinatory De Palma-helmed masterpiece, one can imagine the film it might have been had it put all its attention on sleek style and thrilling scenes of terror to further its whodunit status. But it is more hell-bent on showcasing an unconvincing romance between Laura and a detective (Tommy Lee Jones) that goes from passing glances to breathy “I love you"s in a time period shorter than a gnat’s attention span.
So I can only cringe at the way it chooses the path of a modern Joan Crawford vehicle; I mention De Palma because he likely could've made the film special (picture the split-screens, the genius close-ups, the neat cinematographic effects). But we’re stuck with Irvin Kershner, who doesn’t see the potential in front of him and directs the film blandly.
Even Dunaway, one of the most quintessential actresses of the 1970s, makes for an unimpressive lead, pulling out all the stops necessary to overact a role with Doris Day-in-Julie heft. This is a safe, try-hard modern women's picture trying to convince us that it's something more than that. Aside from a couple neat visuals that make it worth noting, it really isn't. C