Hi there, guys and dolls! Are you still taking up real estate on your couch? Well, for this week’s Raves n Faves I have some fantabulous films for you, by the clever and controversial director, Otto Preminger. They’ve got power, intrigue and bring up all sorts of sordid moral dilemmas. Criterion is featuring them on their Channel as a collection, but they are also available through many different streaming services. Just click on the title and image to be taken to trailers to learn more about the films (and by the way, the trailers themselves are great fun to watch!
THREE BY OTTO PREMINGER – Renowned for his coolly objective style, daringly ambiguous moral complexity, and willingness to tackle taboo themes, classic Hollywood titan (or tyrant, to many of those who worked under him) Otto Preminger pushed the boundaries of the Production Code to create some of the most sophisticated and provocative films of the studio era. This selection of three of his finest—the luxuriantly bittersweet melodrama BONJOUR TRISTESSE, the gripping James Stewart crime procedural ANATOMY OF A MURDER, and the menacing existential mystery BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING—showcases both his range and the singular, relentlessly probing sensibility that unifies his work.
BONJOUR TRISTESSE (1958) – Otto Preminger’s second collaboration with the singular Jean Seberg casts her as Cecile, a hedonistic teenager living on the French Riviera with her similarly decadent father Raymond (David Niven), an incorrigible playboy with whom she shares a curious closeness. When Raymond’s relationship with the straitlaced Anne (Deborah Kerr) threatens to upset her idyll, the possessive Cecile takes matters into her own hands. Adapted from the scandalous novel by French writer Françoise Sagan, this sumptuous melodrama combines striking color and black-and-white cinematography to create a mood of intoxicating melancholy.
ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959) – A virtuoso James Stewart plays a small-town Michigan lawyer who takes on a difficult case: the defense of a young army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) accused of murdering a local tavern owner who he believes raped his wife (Lee Remick). This gripping envelope-pusher, the most popular film by Hollywood provocateur Otto Preminger, was groundbreaking for the frankness of its discussion of sex—but more than anything else, it is a striking depiction of the power of words. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast—with a young George C. Scott as a fiery prosecutor and the legendary attorney Joseph N. Welch as the judge—and an influential score by Duke Ellington, ANATOMY OF A MURDER is an American movie landmark, nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture.
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) – After her young daughter ostensibly disappears from a London daycare, a desperate mother (Carol Lynley) gets another shock when the authorities—led by Laurence Olivier’s cynical Scotland Yard superintendent—inform her that they can find no evidence that the girl ever existed. Otto Preminger’s coolly harrowing psychological thriller probes not only the curious mystery at its center but also the frightening ambiguities of sanity and reality. Watch out for a musical appearance from English psych-rock legends the Zombies.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts. And don’t forget to give my Poppy Cove Mysteries a try if you haven’t already.
Toodles, Barbara Jean