Opening the Film Forum’s extensive but by no means complete retrospective on maverick Hollywood director Otto Preminger is one of his most well known and well seen films, 1944’s noir Laura, paired with what may be the best film he, or, frankly, anyone else, ever made: Daisy Kenyon (1947).Without a doubt Daisy Kenyon is one of the most mature and wise films about adult relationships. Preminger brings his trademarked stylistic ambivilance to a melodrama where Joan Crawford is torn between the love of two men, played by Dana Andrew (married, sauve, uncommitted) and Henry Fonda (WW2 vet, idiosyncratic, dedicated). While Preminger would later expand the scope of his films to epic scales, this is a tight, distraught film about a small handful of people, but most importantly Crawford, caught in a situation, as in most of Preminger’s films, that has no easy answers. What people want and why they want it are both crystal clear and utterly ambiguous, making the tempestuous feelings of love and desire as vivid as they are cryptic, treating the film’s characters as people who think they know who they are and what they want even when both are sometimes as unclear to us as it is to them. It is this uncertaintly that makes the melodrama ring so true, and this struggle to define who the characters are and what they want that makes the film so rich.
Daisy Kenyon is curently not on DVD in the U.S., and screens at the Film Forum on January 2 & 3.