Whirlpool (Otto Preminger / U.S., 1949):

Josť Ferrerís resemblance to a young Freud gives a clue into what Otto Preminger is up to in this very wry, very Viennese satire of psychoanalysis as bourgeois fad. The high-society kleptomaniac (Gene Tierney) is caught with a filched broche but rescued from scandal by astrologist-hypnotist-quack Dr. Korvo (Ferrer), an uptown Mabuse. Her anxieties threaten to spill over yet are tucked away to please a psychiatrist husband (Richard Conte). Korvo, meanwhile, displays his keen interest in relationships ("A successful marriage is usually based on what a husband and wife don't know about each other") and infidelity ("Even our government is against monopoly"). He gives himself an alibi at the hospital and makes his move, manipulating the missus is but another "experiment with the human family." Suppressed tensions and blocked memories are the tools of the interloperís trade, and of the directorís, too -- the mesmerized Tierney wandering into the scene of the crime just in time to be arrested by the police is like a hazy remembrance from Laura, the high-angled, curving tracking shot turns the victimís living room into a state of mind. Itís less a matter of guilt than of identity as Tierneyís doll-mask of "healthy and adorable" docility cracks in the prisonís visiting room; the police detective (Charles Bickford) witnesses the spectacle while husbandly pride drives Conte away, Preminger records it in an implacable extended take. Self-discovery as therapy, cinema as trance, and one of Ben Hechtís sharpest screen jobs to boot. Critical inanities (Crowther: "A flapdoodle" Kael: "A real stinker") have been thoroughly countered by artistic response (Marnie, Rosselliniís Fear, Belle de Jour, Crimes of Passion, etc.). With Barbara OíNeill, Eduard Franz, Constance Collier, and Fortunio Bonanova. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home