Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Otto Preminger retrospective - DAISY KENYON

The first is an occasional series looking at the films of Pantheon director of movie such as ANATOMY OF A MURDER, BONJOUR TRISTESSE, THE MAN WITH A GOLDEN ARM, CARMEN JONES and....

DAISY KENYON is a refreshingly adult, modern drama about a mature, career woman (Joan Crawford) with a conflicted love life. She is having an affair with a married rich lawyer (Dana Andrews) and hasn't got the strength to leave him. He spins her a fancy line but doesn't want a messy divorce. At the same time, Daisy is being romanced by a charming, grieving, soldier (Henry Fonda). He is aware of her love for the lawyer, and she cannot resolve her feelings for either of them, but knowing all this, they get married anyway. At which point, the lawyer's wife starts divorce proceedings, naming Daisy, and opening up the possibility of a new life with her old lover.

This movie isn't classic noir in the Philip Marlowe style, but it is noir in its moral complexity, emotional ambiguity and sexual tension. Daisy, the lawyer and the soldier are all confused about what they want and their motivations are complicated. Even at the end, we are not particularly convinced that the "happy couple" have moved off of shifting sands. Adultery is not judged harshly, but neither is it condoned. The writers just face up to messy reality. We also have some class criticism, with the lifestyle and casual power of the lawyer contrasted with Daisy - a middle class career woman - and the soldier - who has returned to his working class life.

All of this elevates what might seem to be a superficial soap opera story into a work of interest that still seems modern - and more honest - than SEX AND THE CITY and its ilk.

DAISY KENYON was released in 1947.

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