Ideological analysis of uncanny sound

The supernatural qualities of Laura, powered through the strategic use of sound and the thematizing of its disruption, would seem to contradict theorists like Mary Ann Doane and Rick Altman who write that the split, fragmented, "material heterogeneity" of sound reproduction in Hollywood is repressed by the system's ideology of unity and organicism. Laura seems to provide the contradiction since it's as if organicism is constantly differed by radiophonic desire in this film, so that, even as the film strains to materialize the body of Laura, there's another equally strong pull towards dissolution (primarily activated by the use of the soundtrack to point out the instability of narrative truth). However, Doane might argue that since Laura's drive towards the opposite of the lived body is attributed to the already uncanny structure of the plot, it in no way exposes the machinic qualities of the film and the work involved in the soundtrack. That is, instead of pointing to some sort of wartime crisis in cinema production or to a more timeless disfunction in the circuits of desire, the film exploits the uncertain feelings engendered by unmoored sound thematically. Paraphrasing Bonitzer, Doane says, "the narrative film exploits the marginal anxiety connected with the voice-off by incorporating its disturbing effects within the dramatic framework" (167); this is true of the song "Laura" just as it is true of the voice-overs of more typical noir productions of the time. The floating song and the doubling of presence through the radio in this film both signify forms of omnipotence up to the point that they are synced up, when, as described by Bonitzer, Chion et al., the source of the powerful free-floating voice can finally be seen as embodied, bankrupt, and wizened. 

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Many times throughout Laura, the song is routinely repeated. In Laura's presence, it is called merely "sweet" or used as cocktail party music. However, Laura does not undergo any loss of power as her song becomes a trifle. Rather, as the song migrates from typical background music to supernatural revenant of Laura and back again (thus mirroring the traversals of life/death, narration/delusion, reality/dream in the film) it is the men who loose power, while Laura remains uncannily sensible. It must be remembered that acoustmetric effects are many times attributed to the comforts of the maternal voice. However, while Laura might represent the dream-like comforts of the maternal presence for the male characters, she is not a mother, but is a typical American working girl. She is no ethereal presence, even though the men would work to make her so. 

So while it is then fairly typical that the song "Laura" has the supernatural effect of resurrecting the power and image of Laura in her absence and while it is also typical that Lydecker's omnipotence can be extended through the use of radio transcription, what is not typical is that the song and the presence of the radio encourage not so much a reflection on the dialectic of omnipotence and impotence, as an exposé of the circuits between work and fantasy that power not only desire and consumption, but also production. All the film's characters are cultural workers, so that even though Jacoby and Lydecker "create" Laura, they are thwarted not only by the "real" unattainable aspects of her, but also by the flaws inherent in the work of representation. In this system, all Galatea myths are shattered and, Laura herself is engaged in cultural work (in an ad agency) of representation. Thus, if Lydecker's work can nullify Jacoby's, glorify MacPherson's, promote Laura's and ultimately introduce a split in his own persona, Laura's own work--similarly grounded in desire and self-preservation--creates her own double in Diane Redfern who, luckily for Laura, is conveniently destroyed in these force fields of jealousy, love, and production.