Monday, April 13, 2015

The Baby Vanishes

For some reason, I've always considered Otto Preminger's Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) to be connected to Don't Look Now. Maybe because they are both thrillers about missing children (that I was kind of afraid to watch). Turns out, they are nothing alike.

I knew about the stylish Saul Bass paperdoll credits, but was surprised to discover the movie was in black and white. It starts with Carol Lynley, who has just moved to London with her brother Keir Dullea. She is looking around a school, trying to find someone to tell that she has dropped her daughter off for her first day of school. She winds up telling the disgruntled cook, and hurries home to let the movers in, while Dullea is off on some kind of diplomatic errand. But when it comes time to pick up her daughter, no one has seen her. The cook has quit and disappeared (well, she was disgruntled). The headmistress is shifty. The police (Laurence Olivier) are urbanely skeptical. Can anyone confirm that Bunny Lake even exists? Even we, in the audience, have never seen her.

I used to think that Preminger was a purveyor of slick, middle-brow prestige pictures, like, say, Forever Amber. If Bunny Lake is any indication, I am mistaken, and he has a twisted, twisty mind - by the end, this gets pretty wild. It's got a bit of Hitchcock - the tension and the visual style are there - but it strikes me as less restrained, less detached. Good for him!

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