Film: Eyes of Laura Mars

July 25, 2022

Something about the grungy look and feel of seventies cinema appeals to me, and Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) has that in spades, delivering us to the smoggy, litter-strewn streets of New York City. Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a provocative fashion photographer whose life is upended when she suddenly starts having disembodied visions of murders. When the killer start to target the people in her life, she’s approached by Lietenant John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones), a homicide cop who has linked the images in Laura’s photographs to crime scenes from active cases. At first it seems like she might be a suspect, but eventually it looks like she might be the key to bringing the killer to justice.

Eyes of Laura Mars has a dynamite premise, but it doesn’t really exploit it very well – neither visually nor narratively. Indeed, the supernatural goings-on are never adequately explained; it doesn’t really even pretend to be anything more than big-concept fuel, filling the film’s tank. Dunaway does fine in a rather thankless role, navigating the expected shock tactics and whodunit rhythms. Which of the men in her life is committing the killings? Is it Neville, or her novelist ex-husband (Raúl Juliá), or her flamboyant manager (René Auberjonois), or her ex-convict driver (Brad Dourif)? Or is she blacking out and committing the crimes herself? The answer is telegraphed, but does have a moderately interesting twist, and the trashy vibes are kind of fun. Interestingly, director Irvin Kershner would move on next to The Empire Strikes Back, but here he delivers merely a fun but mediocre thriller that feels like an imitation of Brian De Palma imitating Alfred Hitchcock.