Irvin Kershner, USA, 1978, 104 min.
Before: I heard this was a great thriller. There is a lot of talent behind and in front of the camera, and the plot sounds great. Looking forward to it!
After: The opening shot of Eyes of Laura Mars is the POV of a murderer. It’s reminiscent of the opening shot of Halloween (released less than 3 months later), which makes sense because this one is also written by John Carpenter. But instead of revealing the murdered immediately, this time the mystery of who the murderer is takes up most of the film.
Faye Dunaway plays the titular character: an infamous photographer whose new exhibition or bold, erotic and violent imagery is turning people’s heads. The exhibition may also have gotten the attention of a psychopath who begins murdering people around her. The twist is that whenever the killer is about to strike, Laura can see through his eyes.
Put on the case to catch the killer is the unbelieving detective John Neville (not that John Neville), played by a very young Tommy Lee Jones. As more and more people are killed, both Mars and Neville find it harder and harder to explain the phenomena.
It all builds to a revealing ending that will be oddly satisfying to some and incredibly stupid to others. But the film is more about the journey than the payoff.
The cast is solid and filled with great performances by some people we don’t see enough of. Rene Auberjonois is flamboyantly good as Laura Mars’ friend and manager. Raul Julia plays her sleazy ex-husband, and Brad Dourif is her personal driver with a checkered past.
The screenplay has enough to keep it interesting, but the real draw is the solid direction by Irvin Kershner. He knows how to make a film in nearly any genre, and Carpenter’s script gives him room to stretch creatively. There are some thrilling set-pieces here.
This film is a product of the seventies for sure: a sleazy, lurid but cleave script with subject matter that studios would shy away from today. A competent director getting the chance to spread his wings. And of course an ending that will leave everyone talking.