Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Billy Wilder

I just can't make up my mind about this guy!
every movie i see of his follows a definite pattern - atrociously mawkish and melodramatic followed by sheer brilliance.

His worst that I have seen rank as -
1. Stalag 17 (1953) If Shawshank Redemption is the best prison-life movie and The Great Escape the best jail-break, Stalag 17 is the worst of both of them. You have to see this movie to realize that B grade humor and melodrama is not exclusively a Bollywoodian heritage. (Of course, Holloywood gave us the biggest B-bull of all time - Independence day - as full of cliches as a gutter full of cockroaches.)
2. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) Comes with the tag line of "Once in 50 years suspense like this!". It was as suspenseful as watching water-buffaloes block you car and shit along the way. Charles Laughton, as the quintessential Briton, plays it in quintessential Churchillesque cliche. The dialogues, intended to capture the British wry humor, are self-conscious and as forced as a man on a bog with constipation. You can see the "suspense" coming from a mile off and if I had been part of the royalty, that was sworn into keeping the "secret" by Wilder before the screening, I would have gotten him drawn and quartered thereafter.
3. The Apartment (1960) If the otherwise redoubtable Jack Lemmon had gotten a tad more sweeter, I would have had a sugar attack. Btw, this one swept the Oscars - another example about how the Oscars is hardly a benchmark of excellence.

1. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Besides the heart-wrenching performance by Gloria Swanson, if ever there was a movie lifted from good to greatness by its last scene alone, this is it!
2. Double Indemnity (1944) saw it yesterday and the reason for this post. Despite any visual violence and the murderer confessing to his crimes at the very beginning, the movie keeps r fingers gripping the edge of your seats for the whole 1 and a half hours. Edward G. Robinson is so brilliant as the hard-nut-to-crack actuary that even a 2-minutes speech on the subtleties of actuarial statistics keeps you as locked as Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth!" in a Few Good Men.

Of course, Raymond Chandler's screenplay was the best reason for the noir-cult classic Double Indemnity.
But if I dismiss that, how do I account for the fact that the same guy can make such tripe and cinema-defining classics?

I am reminded of the missing-for-a-long time Pankaj Parashar, a man who could serve you the best and the worst on any given day.

1 comment:

pankajunk said...

though im not sure i agree with that categorization, i have always found billy wilders movies to be pure entretainment. they remind me of a particular brand of story telling that i came across in old american comic books as a kid, (tales from the crypt perhaps?), tense and tongue in cheek at the same time.