Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bunny Lake Is Missing (2014 digital 4K restoration by Sony Pictures)

Bunny Lake Is Missing. Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley. Please click to enlarge.
Bunny Lake è scomparsa / Bunny on kadonnut / Bunny Lake är försvunnen.
    GB © 1965 Wheel Productions Ltd. D: Otto Preminger. Based on the novel [1957] by Evelyn Piper [= Merriam Modell]. SC: John Mortimer, Penelope Mortimer. DP: Denys Coop. ED: Peter Thornton. AD: Don Ashton. M: Paul Glass.
    C: Carol Lynley (Ann Lake), Laurence Olivier (ispettore Newhouse), Keir Dullea (Steven Lake), Martita Hunt (Ada Ford), Noël Coward (Orazio Wilson), Anna Massey (Elvira Smollett), Jill Melford (l’insegnante), Finlay Currie (il costruttore di bambole), Clive Revill (sergente Andrews), Lucie Mannheim (la cuoca), Adrienne Corri (Dorothy).
    P: Otto Preminger per Wheel Productions Ltd. DCP. 107’. B&w. From: Sony Columbia per concessione di Park Circus
    Restored in 4K by Sony Pictures from the original camera negative and fine grain master. 4K wetgate scanning at Cineric. Image restoration by Prasad and MTI Film. Audio restoration at Chace Audio.
    Panavision, 2,35:1.
    The Zombies: "Remember You", "Just Out of Reach" and "Nothing's Changed".
    Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Ritrovati e Restaurati), 30 June 2015

Jean-Louis Comolli: "Here, the desire to lose the viewer among false leads and false characters is so obvious as to create a doubt not about the truth of the characters and the secret of their nature, but about the reality of their existence itself: as if the absence of Bunny Lake, presented in the film as a creation of the mind, undermines the real existence of her parents, confining them too to the role of ghosts. So much so that we wonder if we are passing through a world of phantoms moving vacuously looking for shade... The psychological motives, the police investigation, the psychoanalytic explanations encountered along the way appear superfluous, irritating in this game of ghosts, and contradictory, as a result of the realist devices dragging behind them, compared to the evocation of dramas and figures so poorly personified."

"In one sense, Bunny Lake is the final destination of Preminger’s ‘fantasy’ streak: never were mysteries, doubts, dreamlike visions, double or triple personalities more flaunted; but it is also his admission of failure: never, in fact, were cruder patterns and more pompous means used for such a subtle and common cause. We can visibly trace – paralyzed within the failure – the dialectic between suggestion and excess, between allusion and redundancy, between the effective and the superfluous, between the two-faced and the monolithic, the struggle between mystery and the system, between shadow and the spotlight (a prophetic scene of Advise and Consent) which, perpetuating itself from film to film and leaving its mark more or less evident in each, ended up with the loss of value of the central figure of the piece, at the same time its symbol and secret.

Jean-Louis Comolli, L’œil du maître, “Cahiers du Cinéma”, n. 178, May 1966 (Il Cinema Ritrovato, catalogue and website)

AA: "A woman reports that her young daughter is missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed." (IMDb synopsis). Critics have recognized the affinity of Bunny Lake Is Missing with key films of modern horror such as Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Repulsion, and perhaps even Les Diaboliques belongs to the relevant points of comparison. The special affinity with Psycho is underlined by the effective Saul Bass credit sequence with a recurrent "tearing" motif.

Otto Preminger's mise-en-scène is firm in Bunny Lake Is Missing, as is his brilliant camera choreography based on long, elaborate takes with exciting pans and tracking shots. Preminger belonged to the masters of the wide screen, and the Cinema Arlecchino screen does justice to his dynamic Panavision 2,35:1 framing. This bewildering detective story takes us to a journey of exploration in many fascinating London locations.

The film is well cast. The American leads seem intentionally bland, but Laurence Olivier is fine in his laid back performance as the police officer, and Martita Hunt, Noël Coward, Anna Massey, and Finlay Currie bring a lot of vitality and touches of eccentricism in their memorable roles.

Jean-Louis Comolli in his remarks above reveals the problems of such a tricky story. Madness in entertainment fiction is difficult but not impossible to handle. There are serious obstacles if the narrative is based on identification. In Preminger's objective approach identification is not even strived at, yet there is a sense of futility after we have been tricked so many times. At first we are led to believe that Ann and Steven Lake are a couple (they are a sister and a brother with a presumably incestuous relationship), then we start to doubt that Bunny Lake exists only in the imagination of Ann who is mad, and finally we realize that it is Steven who is a psychotic trying to frame his sister as a dangerous madwoman. By then I had stopped to care too much about such a clever story.

The digital restoration has been brilliantly conducted. The movie looks splendid, indeed.

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