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Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Movie

Sunday, December 20, 2009
7:00 p.m. Bunny Lake Is Missing
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1965)

New Print


Bunny Lake is the only thing missing in a film otherwise loaded with suspicion, psychosis, and suspense. A recent arrival in London, Ann Lake (played by a quietly cracked Carol Lynley) hastily enrolls her daughter, Bunny, in a nursery school. When she returns to pick her up, all trace of the four-year-old has vanished. Ann’s overbearing brother, Steven (Keir Dullea channeling Anthony Perkins), appears, playing restive foil to the investigating officer’s (Laurence Olivier) deceptive calm. As Bunny refuses to materialize, doubt about her very existence casts its shadow across the plaintive proceedings. The Lakes are a pallid pair, queasily self-protective and emotionally inbred. Olivier’s coy investigation only feeds our suspicion that the flimsy evidence of Bunny’s being could be the product of a family feud. Bunny Lake boldly builds around an absence, describing by deflection and misdirection the disposition of the missing child. Using long takes and stark compositions, Preminger’s quandary of character slowly reveals its truth, never letting the bunny out of the bag.

—Steve Seid

• Written by John and Penelope Mortimer, based on the novel by Evelyn Piper. Photographed by Denys Coop. With Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley, Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier. (107 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Sony Pictures)