Lady in the Lake (1947)

Adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name, the 1947 film noir Lady in the Lake was an experiment and a half for star Robert Montgomery, and his directorial debut to boot.

Montgomery was keen to replicate Chandler’s first-person voice over style as he brought the iconic gumshoe, Phillip Marlow back to the screen.

Except for a few instances, Lady in the Lake is presented exclusively from Marlow’s point of view with Montgomery providing the detective’s voice. 

At some points the camera is punched by some tough guy. There are some other amusing tricks, like when Marlow is on the phone, we see the mouthpiece, blurred in the lower frame; and when Marlow holds a lit cigarette, smoke drifts up from below the frame. 

At one point, the hard-working femme fatale leans in for a kiss on the lens.

Although the film had box office success, many critics were conflicted at Montgomery’s use of the subjective camera. 

One New York Times critic saying that after awhile the technique’s effect “begins to wear thin”. Despite its downfalls, the Lady in the Lake is a classic film for noir fans and for those who like variety in their storytelling.

And what else? All else is but curiosity. Perhaps someone has to make one of these Point-of-View movies every generation. Strange Days (1995), and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) spring to mind, and then of course there is Hardcore Henry (2015). There are a handful of contenders out there, and not all of them entirely First Person Point of View.

Otherwise, Lady in the Lake might look like an everyday noir, with its pointy underwear and looming shadows. The pitch of the acting in the point of view mode is hard to uphold, and sometimes it doesn't quite make sense where the actors are looking, although clearly magnificent mirror work is the order of the day.

There are meaty moments too of film noir grim noir violence, and this may well have been because some of the action are clearly improvised as just about every set up in this shoot must have been novel to just about everybody.

Invention bred further invention and just about every trick in the book was used, including this great image of the private eye confronting himself and his wounds. Mirrors never was so brutish.

When the action actually rolls around the character, it needs be viewed from a prone position generally. 

↓ The Eyepoint of a Diegetic Character 

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