Published in 24fps, February 2004.
Part Two (Dan Sallitt)
Just turned off the VCR after refreshing my memory of DAISY. What a wonderful film. I do not think there are ten better in the entire cinema.
Let's look at that "I love you" moment. The dialogue before it is a mix of mundane conversation, well-rendered, and Peter's slightly tipsy pushing against boundaries. Daisy had a nice date and is open to another; Peter is in love already, knows he shouldn't talk about it yet, eventually does anyway. At the Stork Club earlier, we've seen that he has a capacity for joy, and that drink can improve him - his lack of inhibition pleased Daisy. But before that, in her apartment, we found out that his wife has died, and that he is struggling with life. Now, on the street in front of Daisy's apartment, the two frequencies are superimposed upon each other - he's drunk, in love, and connecting to something that is making him quite sad. The "I love you" comes as a complete surprise, because Daisy has just established the proper, restrained code of communication for them, picking the time and place for a second date. So the "I love you" is in a way a domination on his part, an overriding of Daisy's control. He speaks with melancholy, which also disturbs the codes of romantic communication. Preminger leaves the camera on him in an over-the-shoulder shot as Daisy responds with inarticulate surprise and bafflement. Her reaction re-establishes the ground rules of realism that Preminger and Hertz are observing: she knows, and we do, that the "I love you" is inappropriate, though not exactly unpleasant. Then Peter wheels around abruptly and walks away without a goodbye as she is speaking - he is in love, sad nonetheless, and in complete, though drunken, control of the moment. Daisy is left to stand and react, as she does so often through the movie with both of her men.
Point one: there's some very grown-up, very pleasing dialogue here. Has anyone read Elizabeth Janeway's novel, which Hertz adapted? I'd like to find out whether some of the script's qualities might originate there.
Point two: it's very Preminger to show the "I love you," Daisy's modifying reaction to it, and Peter's surprise departure all in the same shot. More than anything, Preminger is about using style to make a unified presentation of elements that are in dramatic opposition to each other.
Point three: the last three lines of dialogue in the movie are a key to the structure of the entire drama. DAISY is about war, about a struggle for dominance between two power-oriented men: the more direct, dominating, impulsive Dan, whose joy is in his exercise of power; and the more indirect, passive Peter, who nonetheless has techniques of emerging victorious, or at least unbloodied, from every skirmish. Daisy, intelligent and balanced, is not a creature of power, and is buffeted about by the superior strategy of her lovers.