Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Eyes of Laura Mars

As its title indicates, The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) is especially concerned with eyes, and specifically how we can each "see" something different when looking at the same thing. Laura Mars, as played by the captivating Faye Dunaway in an impressive performance, is a celebrated yet controversial fashion photographer. Her stunning pictures—inspired by the photography of Helmut Newton for the film—play with the intersections of desire and fear, sex and violence, blurring the lines between lustful consent and threatening assault. We see how audiences perceive Laura's work—on the one hand she's feted by Manhattan's elite art crowd for her daring and provocative style, while on the other a journalist looking for an interview shouts, "I just want to ask her if she knows how offensive her work is to women."

When the serial murders begin, Laura actually "sees" the murders as they occur—her eyes become those of the killer's, and she witnesses her friends and associates gruesome deaths through that lens. Laura's gifted eyes, used to create cutting-edge photographs of simulated sex and violence, now betray her with the sort of brutal finality only hinted at in her work. She's terrified. Suddenly her enormous and elegantly decorated apartment starts to feel like a prison. Her fashion shoots take on an ominous quality. It seems everyone in her life is a target of the killer—including Laura herself.

The Eyes of Laura Mars is a visual feast, full of beauty, style, and looming dread—in the way the city itself is shot, or in Laura's seductively suggestive photography, or in the nightmarish POV shots we glimpse through Laura's horrified eyes, or even finally in Laura herself. With her scandalously sexy legs and piercing bedroom eyes, she's the ultimate expression of impossible beauty, something viewers simply cannot look away from. That's kind of the point here—we're a culture of voyeurs, easily titillated by physical beauty, sex, and violence. We're a visually oriented society, yet often we each see, or interpret, things in very different ways. Much is made of the connection between Laura's art and the murders—not only their striking visual symmetry but also the possibility that her work inspired the serial killer's own work. Ultimately the film posits that this intersection of art and smut, beauty and debasement, can sometimes lead to tragic consequences.


  1. Replies
    1. It is! Not perfect, but a very interesting film, the kind that lingers in your mind for days after viewing.