Saturday, July 5, 2008

Odds and Sods - Bunny Lake edition

Currently watching the creepy Otto Preminger movie, Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) on Turner Classic Movies. It always bothers me. I first saw it as a child and had nightmares, even though it isn't a horror movie. It's more like a long, British Twilight Zone episode. I find it totally hypnotic and never miss it whenever it's on TV.

Unmarried American mother Carol Lynley is hysterical that her daughter is missing, while investigator Laurence Olivier, narrowing his eyes as only King Lear could, is skeptical that Bunny even exists. Keir Dullea (years before he visited Jupiter and beyond the infinite) plays Carol Lynley's wholesome journalist brother, who nonetheless gives off a very weird, mysterious vibe. And then Noel Coward, of all people, shows up to freak everyone out with a whip he claims once belonged to the Marquis de Sade, if you can believe it. In 1965, no less! (As a child, I had no idea what any of this meant; but thought the whip signified he was a dangerous person.) Also, the excellent 60s band the Zombies, appear in a pub scene.

It's a great psychological thriller:

In adapting the original novel [by Merriam Modell], Preminger re-set the story from New York to London, where he enjoyed working. He created a dark, sinister vision of London which provides much of the film's appeal, making creative use of real locations, including the "doll hospital" and a house that belonged to the novelist Daphne du Maurier. Preminger found the novel's denouement lacking in interest and credibility, and drastically changed the plot -- a process that required a large number of re-writes from his British husband-and-wife scriptwriters John Mortimer and Penelope Mortimer before the director was satisified.
It's a very feminist movie, but I have to say, I'm not sure why. Perhaps the fact that the authorities simply disregard the words of Carol Lynley? And then, we start doubting her, too? Isn't that the way conventional male-supremacy works?

If she didn't have her brother on her side, they wouldn't pay any attention to her at all... but IS he on her side?

The cross-cultural tensions in Bunny Lake remain subtle throughout. On learning that the detectives back at her new home have discovered that all of Bunny's things are "missing" as well, Ann [Carol Lynley] breaks down. Again the camera follows her, this time diving in for harrowing close-ups: "What would anyone want with Bunny's things?" she wails, "It's like a nightmare." The smart framing and sharp shadows (brilliant cinematography by Denys Coop) both illustrate and exacerbate her fright, increasing distrust, and self-doubts, as does Paul Glass's strikingly abstract, jazzily spare score. And here director Otto Preminger is surely on familiar turf, making psychological interiors rather distressingly visible. Following the discovery at her flat, Ann is pressured to prove that her daughter "exists," as the police and Steven (during off-screen conversations with interested parties who then report them to the police) insinuate that she's made up the child, a sign of her fragile mental state. Steven [Keir Dullea] lets slip that when she was young, she had an imaginary friend named Bunny, and yes, she and Steven have shared a somewhat too-close relationship.

As she's unable to find neighbors or even fellow bus passengers who recall seeing the child, Ann begins to come undone -- her own existence is understandably wrapped up in her daughter's. And because the film doesn't grant you a glimpse of Bunny before she goes missing, and the men -- Newhouse anyway -- appear rational, you might be inclined to share their skepticism (unless, of course, you have previous experience with the twitchy deceptions performed so masterfully by the charming Dullea (at this point, he was best known for his turn as the young and frankly charismatic psychotic in 1962's David and Lisa; his disquieting encounters with Hal were yet to come, in 1968).
If you ever get a chance to see this gem, and you like old Twilight Zone episodes, don't miss it!


IN THESE TIMES features an interesting interview with economist Ha-Joon Chang, author of Bad Samaritans. He is known as "the free-trade heretic":

The current dominance of free trade is overwhelming, but it won’t last forever. Free-trade policy of the last quarter of a century has failed to deliver the prosperity that it had promised, and too many of its “losers” have not been compensated for their sacrifices. An increasing, although still small, number of mainstream economists are coming out against free trade (Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz being the most prominent example).
Read the whole thing!


Help save the doggies!

Animals Voice magazine is also excellent animal-rights reading material... and for those who seek major involvement, ANIMAL RIGHTS 2008, a national conference, will be in Washington DC, August 14-18, featuring the ever-popular and very rich Heather Mills McCartney.

Listening to: Passions - I'm in Love With a German Film Star
via FoxyTunes