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Film / Eyes of Laura Mars

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Eyes of Laura Mars is a 1978 American neo-noir mystery thriller film directed by Irvin Kershner, written by John Carpenter, and starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones. The supporting cast includes Brad Dourif, René Auberjonois, and Raúl Juliá.

Laura Mars (Dunaway) is a controversial New York fashion photographer, whose work focuses on scenes of sexualized violence. Suddenly Laura starts to suffer from visions of murder, and her friends start turning up dead. Laura soon realizes that she is Seeing Through Another's Eyes because of a psychic link to the killer. John Neville (Jones), a police lieutenant, works on the case while falling in love with Laura.

Eyes of Laura Mars contains examples of:

  • ...And That Little Boy Was Me: Neville launches into the Red Herring's supposed tragic backstory, describing how his prostitute mother used to leave him alone in the same diaper for days while she was working, and how his probable father came home one night and slashed his mother's throat in front of him. Laura first gets confused because she knows that's not what happened to Tommy, then realizes he's talking about himself when he accidentally lapses into the first person.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Laura's ex-husband Michael breaks into her apartment to harangue her about everything she supposedly did wrong during their marriage. Finally she snaps, "Will fifty dollars be enough?" Then she gets out a hundred dollar bill and holds it out to him. It works.
  • Big Rotten Apple: Yet another '70s movie showing the NYC of that era at its grittiest and most crime-ridden.
  • Bookends: The beginning and end credits both play over a freeze-frame of Laura's face that turns into a negative.
  • Car Meets House: Laura drives into a warehouse in a failed attempt to stop Donald's murder.
  • Chalk Outline: One of the victims is stabbed and then suffers a Staircase Tumble. When the cops remove her body, they leave an outline at the bottom of the stairs. Laura and Neville pass by it later and Laura takes considerable effort to not step within the lines.
  • Died on Their Birthday: Donald is murdered on his birthday.
  • Downer Ending: Laura survives, but everyone she loves is dead, with Laura herself having to kill Neville at his own request to stop him from killing anyone else. The final shot of the movie is Laura talking with the police operator, barely able to even remember her own name from the trauma.
  • Famed In-Story: Laura's work is displayed in large galleries, and when she makes public appearances, she's surrounded by photographers and reporters. As the murder spree becomes more notorious, her work even gets publicly displayed on the sides of buses.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: After Tommy has been killed, Neville returns to where Laura is staying and finds Michael in the elevator. Immediately, Laura gets a flash showing the killer stabbing the other man. However, they conspicuously don't show which man is being killed, and the only reason to hide which of them is the victim is if Neville is doing the killing.
  • Freudian Excuse: Neville's mother was a prostitute who would leave her baby alone for days in the same diaper while she sold herself on the streets of DC. Eventually, their "father" came home, saw the baby's state, and killed their mother in front of them, splattering them with her blood. This cultivated a lifelong obsession with death as a "sacred" thing, and they view Laura's photography as disrespectful to it.
  • Funny Answering Machine: The models Michele and Lulu chorus, "This is Lulu and Michele. We're not home, so go to hell. But if you're not a horny creep, then leave a message when you hear the beep."
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: One of Laura's photos has a topless model wrapping an arm over her chest.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: At Donald's birthday party, the guests sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Neville begs Laura to kill him at the end and even guides her step by step through the process before making Laura pull the trigger herself.
  • Impaled Palm: One of Laura's visions shows the killer stabbing the victim's palm against the wall of an elevator.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Laura's detractors accuse her work of being degrading to its female subjects. Laura defends herself by saying that in real life, sexual violence is everywhere, and she just wants people to see it.
  • Love Theme: "Prisoner", performed by Barbra Streisand. It became a moderate hit.
  • Married to the Job: Michael blames this trope for his and Laura's divorce. He says, "Where were you when I needed something, when I needed comfort? Where were you? In your darkroom." Laura retorts, "Where else could I find any peace? You were in that bedroom dead drunk!"
  • Noodle Incident: Tommy comes clean early on that he once served time for Assault with a Deadly Weapon, but he's not given the chance to explain what actually happened. Before he tries to flee Neville, he also implies that he's been committed before, and the experience was awful enough that he's willing to kill police officers to not go back.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: The killer stabs a mirror with his knife. This seems to snap Neville out of his rage and give him just enough sense to ask Laura to kill him before he goes mad again.
  • Red Herring: Both Tommy and Michael are set up as potential identities for the killer; Michael, Laura's ex-husband, clearly hates her guts and believes her work broke their relationship apart, while Tommy shows noticeable resentment at the way Laura's entourage treats him and has a history of violence. However, both are killed before the true killer, Neville, confronts Laura himself.
  • Serial Killer: John Neville
  • Soft Glass: The killer smashes through a giant window to get to Laura, and is completely uninjured afterwards.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Laura gets a call from Michael, saying that he's drunk and contemplating suicide after waking up in a laundromat. To get to him through her police protection, she has Donald leave the building first dressed as her before leaving after him. As soon as the cops realize it's not her and leave him alone, the killer chases Donald down and kills him.