Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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The Mind's Martini

Hypnosis and psychoanalysis used to be such wonderfully flexible devices of fiction. No-one knew much about them so you could use them to justify all kinds of crazy shit. It's funny how on Doctor Who the Doctor doesn't turn people and animals into slaves by just holding a crystal in front of their faces anymore. In 1949's Whirlpool, hypnotism is a good enough explanation for the fact that Tierney robs her husband, drives to a place outside town, stashes the loot, and frames herself for a murder. A lot of people might dismiss the whole movie as silly now, which is too bad because it's a decent film, with one fascinating character and a story with an intriguing perspective on the ways in which people deal with one another.

They drink a lot of remarkably small martinis in this movie. Or I'm used to remarkably large ones. Hmm.

Whirlpool reunites director Otto Preminger, star Gene Tierney, and composer David Raskin from 1944's Laura. But Whirlpool has a screenplay co-written by Ben Hecht, resulting in noticeably cleverer dialogue, particularly in the case of Jose Ferrer's character, a hypnotist whose brilliant insights make him come off as a sort of Sherlock Holmes, first when he swoops in to make excuses and exonerate Gene Tierney's kleptomaniac character when she's caught stealing a pin at a department store, then when he's deducing things about people at a party by observing superficial details.

Ferrer's roughly analogous to Clifton Webb's character in Laura, being the most interesting character in the movie, an obsessive intellectual misogynist whose outwardly benevolent gestures to the heroine aren't necessarily what they seem. But while Webb's interesting and peculiarly sympathetic for his tragic flaws, Ferrer's character is more like watching a very unusual trainwreck, which has its appeal but isn't quite as amazing.

Tierney looks beautiful in the movie and being caught in a situation made by things she couldn't say about herself all her life, imprisoned by an ideal of normalcy that prevents her from being open with her husband and leads her down a dangerous path, one could see the movie as a commentary on gender relations. But her character in Laura somehow comes out more interesting, especially in the extended cut of Laura as we find her to be a character strangely ignorant of the hurt she's inflicting or, in the regular cut, a woman of strange magnetism, defined more by the reactions of men around her than by her own actions, becoming a sort of MacGuffin for male preoccupations and dysfunctions.

Comparing the two movies one could say this is an example of less being more, or rather subconscious being better than conscious.
Tags: ben hecht, clifton webb, gene tierney, hypnosis, jose ferrer, laura, misogyny, movies, otto preminger, psychology, whirlpool
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