DAISY KENYON SYMPOSIUM
Published in 24fps, February 2004.Part Five (Zach Campbell)
must confess that at this point I’m feeling frustrated because Daisy
Kenyon is not a film to be defined or theorized without great effort
and countless dead ends. All
the grains are aligned here and I still can’t get over how in tune every
collaborator seems to be with the ultimate vision, but the film’s
amazing diversity of tonal shifts, stylistic commands, and thematic webs
(which you two have pointed out in great detail) almost make Daisy
seem dauntingly large and virtuosic on paper when the experience of the
film is quiet, and the viewer is (like the characters) subject to currents
of “real life” that push us along unexpectedly.
But I think I may have found a way to begin conceptualizing the
film while doing justice to its intelligence and humanity.
threw in an excellent observation about Andrews’ Dan pouring coffee in
Daisy’s home, a “stolen moment in imitation of normal domesticity.”
After reading his paragraph several times, I thought he was really
onto something, specifically in the use of the word imitation.
Not only is the world of Daisy Kenyon a world in motion, but
it’s a world in search of reality, conviction, foundation—things that
‘love’ would provide the characters.
And the characters express this unworded, primal search in terms of
mimicry: to mimic a marriage, for instance, as Dan and Daisy do initially,
whether through a level of comfort in the other’s kitchen or in the
making (and breaking) of dinner dates with couple-friends.
“I’ve got to be going somewhere, even if it’s to the
movies,” to quote Daisy—is the point made that motion the metaphysical
effect of yearning?
advocated cinema’s ability to “plunge us into horror,” and to me Daisy
Kenyon recognizes this horror by subtly dismantling the sense of
absoluteness behind the characters’ vocalizations and acts of love.
We especially get this in Dana Andrews’ character, in whom we see
the complex fluctuations of sincerity and insincerity, and through whom we
first realize that there may be no boundary between “true love” and
anything else. Dan O’Mara
clearly loves his daughters, and yet he often treats them in ways that
register as condescending or obliged—and he does the same with Daisy.
A simpler film, spearheaded by a lesser filmmaker, would have
managed to quarantine Dan’s insincerity and glorify those moments and
situations in which he is being “true.”
(And this hypothetical film would still be more intelligent than
the worst possible scenario, in which Dan O’Mara is wholly and visibly
the character of Dan gives us an “in” to the way the film conceives of
love, then Peter Lapham redirects and completes the conception.
Peter is an emotionally troubled person, but some part of him
realizes that even “true love” is subject to calculations, second
thoughts, antitheses—whereas Dan moves without deep self-awareness
between sincerity and insincerity, blurring distinctions, Peter is aware
of this structure, and those “modern combat tactics” he employs are a
conscious effort in a gamble for Daisy’s love and companionship.
Peter truly loves Daisy, as does Dan, but Peter knows that
“allowing” Daisy her freedom might give both of them what they want.
Daisy Kenyon is a film about love, one that respects both
love and lovers, because in a certain way it does not believe in
love as we usually know it.
to Dan Sallitt’s diligence in finding and reading Janeway’s novel,
there is reason to conclude that this thematic intricacy and
intelligence—so tied to the tonal and formal material of the film—are
in fact "all creations of the filmmakers."