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The Public Eye (1992)

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Story of a 1940s photographer who specializes in crime and is not getting involved until this time.

Director:

Howard Franklin

Writer:

Howard Franklin
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Pesci ... Leon Bernstein
Richard Riehle ... Officer O'Brien
Bryan Travis Smith ... Young Cop
Max Brooks ... Teen at Thompson Street
Richard Schiff ... Thompson Street Photographer
Laura Cerón ... Puerto Rican Woman
Chuck Gillespie Chuck Gillespie ... Cop at Puerto Rican Tenement
Christian Stolte ... Ambulance Attendant (as Christian Stolti)
Jack Denbo Jack Denbo ... Photo Editor
Ellen McElduff Ellen McElduff ... Lonely Woman at Drugstore
Marge Kotlisky Marge Kotlisky ... Rineman's Receptionist
Timothy Hendrickson Timothy Hendrickson ... Richard Rineman
Del Close Del Close ... H.R. Rineman
Henry Bolzon Henry Bolzon ... Cafe Society Photographer
Jared Harris ... Danny the Doorman
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Storyline

Leon Bernstein is New York's best news photographer in 1942, equally at home with cops or crooks. The pictures are often of death and pain, but they are the ones the others wish they had got. Then glamorous Kay Levitz turns to him when the Mob seem to be muscling in on the club she owns due to some arrangement with her late husband. Bernstein, none too successful with women, agrees to help, saying there may be some good photos in it for him. In fact, he is falling in love with Kay. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Murder. Scandal. Crime. No matter what he was shooting, "The Great Bernzini" never took sides, he only took pictures... Except once. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 October 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Testemunha Ocular See more »

Filming Locations:

Chicago, Illinois, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$3,067,917
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jerry Goldsmith wrote and recorded a score for this film, which was ultimately not used. See more »

Goofs

When Kay leafs through Bernstein' photo album, there is picture of a New York City taxi with a rectangular roof light which displays not only the word "Taxi" but also whether the taxi is off duty and its medallion number. Those signs did not come into service until the 1960s. In the 1940s, when the movie is set, New York City taxis used a variety of curved roof lights used in most other cities. See more »

Quotes

Kay Levitz: It doesn't matter what people say unless you believe them.
See more »

Connections

References Don't Turn 'em Loose (1936) See more »

Soundtracks

Embraceable You
(1928, first published 1930)
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Performed by Roy Eldridge
Courtesy of MCA Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Some great mood and pseudo-noir stuff, and Pesci is terrific
23 October 2011 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Private Eye (1992)

This is a fictionalized story of the very real NYC crime photographer Weegee, and if you've seen pictures of Weegee or heard his story, Joe Pesci is the perfect cast for the role, coming right after "Goodfellas." He nails it, a terrific performance, even down to handling the cameras well.

Too bad the rest of the film is hit or miss. Maybe on the hit (good) side is the general set design and atmosphere. It feels like a slightly simplified and cleaned up 1942 Manhattan (where most or all of this occurs). And Barbara Hershey as the leading woman (not quite a femme fatale, it seems, but she has that look) is solid, especially with her hair up. You'll see, a good strong look. And the cameras are pretty right on (I'm a photographer, and I shoot with one of these 4x5 Graflex press cameras all the time), though at a glance it seemed that at least one of his Graflexes was a post-war model. We'll let that slip. And on the plus side it has to be said that Mark Isham's last minute hiring for the score was inspired, because it gives the movie the depth it needs.

The misses on the film are deeply integral to enjoying it all the way--the plot, the secondary actors, the direction. The latter is hard to pin down within the obvious and almost purposely clichéd plot, but you feel all along that the movie is put together functionally, as if the director knows most of all that these pieces have to go in order. But giving it flow, elegance, power, and even a convincing mise-en-scene is not just a matter of logic. It feels off, as it out of tune. It's especially noticeable because so much of the film is going right, including Pesci.

There is the question of why did they take Weegee (a.k.a. Arthur Fellig) and turn him into Bernzini (a.k.a. Leon Bernstein)--apparently it was a rights issue with the original story, but certainly the new story could have still been based on Weegee. The images in the film look like pseudo-Weegee moments as much as Pesci looks like Weegee, and Wikipedia says that some of these are actual Weegees. (I have my doubts, but who knows?) Both men had outrageous rubber stamps for the back of their prints that are almost identical--Weegee's said "Weegee the Great." The car is identical, for sure, and even the pace and the world are Weegee's.

Beyond all of this, the movie is entertaining if never commanding, and quite beautifully photographed--I'm talking the cinematography, now. My copy was VHS, and it doesn't sound like the DVD service through Amazon called the Universal Vault Series has very high standards (one user said it looked like VHS quality). I would think a full widescreen version would be worth the trouble--maybe try an Amazon instant play for $3. This says specifically that it is widescreen.


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