Fashion Film Fun: Eyes of Laura Mars
The epitome of 70s fashion zeitgeist, The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) transports the modern day viewer back forty years to when New York was still gritty and fashion could still be truly edgy. The film showcases some top-notch talent of the time: starring fashion icon Faye Dunaway and a young, studly Tommy Lee Jones; original screenplay by John Carpenter, a master of glossy gore, and directed by Irvin Kershner, who was later tapped to direct The Empire Strikes Back. It and others like it developed the sexy thriller genre: think Body Double, Dressed to Kill, etc. The overall slick and subversive vibe of that era lends a lot to the atmosphere of these films, and in that department ..Laura Mars does not disappoint.
Plot: Although the film rich in style and a model example of the fashion thriller canon, it has gotten some criticism for not having the most compelling storyline. The over the top acting indicative of the 70's does it no favors in the eyes of the modern viewer, either. If you can forgive these things, the premise of the film is interesting enough to sit back and enjoy the stylish sets and clothing. The main character, Laura (Faye Dunaway), is a high profile fashion photographer and is notorious for her over the top images depicting violence in her fashion shoots. She begins having visions of actual crimes as they are being committed. Unfortunately for her, the murderer is choosing his victims from her pool of friends. As the body count rises, a police detective (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to help her get to the bottom of how her visions are connected to the killer.
Mood: One of the things that sets this film apart from its peers is that none other than Helmut Newton set the scenes for the fashion shoots. The film has his mark all over it and it is so amazing to see his vision come to life in moving film. Those that are fans of his legendary photos will delight in the feeling of being on set with him. The film is set in New York at a period of time when it was still a gritty and dangerous place, the surroundings imbue the film that sexy sinister feel that is so vital to the plot. The fashion shoots themselves take place in various locations around the city with one of its most memorable in Columbus Circle where a car fire is in full swing and lots of onlookers give the shoot authenticity. Another great set is Laura's spacious studio in an abandoned warehouse on a pier overlooking the Hudson. The more subtle sets are not to be overlooked, either. My particular favorite is Laura's bedroom in her stylish (and obviously very expensive) apartment. The mirror paneling and matching lamps on either side of her bed, which is on a raised platform, are all spot on.
Style: The costuming was skillfully done by Theoni V. Aldredge, who also worked on Network, another great fashion film, again starring Faye Dunaway. Laura's bow blouses, ponchos, and high slit skirts are all great pieces for the professional working woman she is. The men in the production are also well outfitted in classic looks from the late 70's as well, you can't miss the period leather jackets, snug jeans and plaid shirts with exaggerated collars. Detective Neville (Jones) has the role as main squeeze, so of course careful attention is paid to his styling in stylish suits and wide ties; turtleneck sweaters and tweed blazers. Laura's agent, Donald (Rene Auberjonois), is flamboyant and stylish with layered polos, upturned collar on his jackets, and a penchant for wearing scarves.
The models in the shoots are the real style stand-outs, though. A couple of the actresses, Lisa Taylor and Darlanne Fluegel, were actual high fashion models of the day. The styling is glossy and glamorous and the disco soundtrack that pulses while on shoots lends a lot of atmosphere. Some of the best looks have the models sporting berets, lots of lip gloss and hi-volume teased and even crimped hair. The clothing is edgy and overtly sexy in keeping with the overall theme. There are lingerie inspired looks, fluffy furs and oversized sweaters, and a great shoot scene with lots of filmy chiffon layers and harem pants. Overall, there is so much fashion packed into this film you will need to take notes!
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Polychrome prints clockwise from top left:
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