In concert with Film Quotes Film and Riverdale 10 Cinema, Arkansas Times Film Series presents Otto Preminger’s 1965 suspense “Bunny Lake is Missing.” Film Quotes Film’s Omaya Jones discussed the film in this week’s arts and entertainment section.
Shortly after the film begins, Anne Lake (Carol Lynley) goes to pick up her daughter, Bunny, from school. She wonders around the waiting room with a crowd of mothers who are also there waiting to pick up their Bunnys. School ends, the group of mothers dissipate. Only Anne is left, and there is no Bunny. The rest of the film exists in a nightmare state where the viewer is never quite sure of what to make of what is going on — or if Bunny even exists. It’s a terrifying prospect. The only other film that so successfully elicits a sense of total discombobulation is Orson Welles’ “The Trial,” adapted from the Kafka story of the same name, and every facet of the camerawork works toward producing this feeling; it’s classical in style, keeping an objective distance, moving subtly in lieu of wild pans and closeups. It almost has the sense of a police procedural. Penelope and John Mortimer adapted the screenplay from a novel by Merriam Modell, thanks to a reprinting of the work from The Feminist Press, a publisher whose “Femme Fatales” line of books is devoted to reprinting pulp novels by women. Modell was a graduate of Cornell University and, after living abroad, settled into life as a writer of short stories and suspense novels under the pen name Evelyn Piper. Many of her stories, Modell’s New York Times obituary reads, “had a common theme: the domestic conflicts faced by American families.” The film moves the setting from New York to London to further heighten the sense of loneliness and isolation Anne feels as she searches for her daughter, in a new place surrounded by strange people who mostly think she’s insane.
The Arkansas Times Film Series is co-presented by Film Quotes Film, and is accompanied by a set of podcasts exploring the creative and historical contexts of the movies featured. Tonight’s screening begins at 7 p.m., and tickets can be purchased in advance at Riverdale 10’s website.