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Kiss Me Stupid (#110 of 2)

Adulterers, Perverts, Lawyers, Criminals, Liars, Wimps, Snitches and Drunks: “Essential Wilder”

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Adulterers, Perverts, Lawyers, Criminals, Liars, Wimps, Snitches and Drunks: “Essential Wilder”
Adulterers, Perverts, Lawyers, Criminals, Liars, Wimps, Snitches and Drunks: “Essential Wilder”

In honor of what would have been Billy Wilder’s 100th birthday, NYC’s Film Forum is currently hosting a retrospective titled “Essential Wilder.” Running until July 20th, the lineup features films co-written by Wilder either for himself or for another director (Howard Hawks, Mitchell Liesen and Wilder’s idol Ernst Lubistch, to name three). Wilder’s classics are represented, as well as films deemed by most to be “Lesser Wilder,” though a die-hard fan may take issue with that label: Wilder had a few misfires in his career, but only one of them is in this retrospective.

Because the series is called “Essential Wilder,” there are no screenings of Wilder’s horrendous Buddy, Buddy, nor are there any sightings of Jack Lemmon’s flat, naked ass from the otherwise mildly diverting truffle, Avanti. Film Forum also won’t be wearing Wilder’s Fedora nor reading The Front Page. In their places are movies about adulterers, perverts, lawyers, criminals, liars, wimps, snitches, drunks, and any combination from that list. Also present are numerous shots of the old New York, so many that Wilder should be mentioned in the same group of NYC directors as Lumet, Scorsese and Lee.

This week finds some choice Wilder works, and that aforementioned misfire. Thursday brings Witness for the Prosecution, a fun Agatha Christie mystery headed by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Laughton (both Oscar nominated), and made memorable by Marlene Dietrich’s supporting turn. Friday unspools Sunset Blvd., Wilder’s masterpiece and my second favorite movie of all time. It deserves a post all to itself at some future date.

5 for the Day: Wilder’s Wares

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5 for the Day: Wilder’s Wares
5 for the Day: Wilder’s Wares

While accepting the Foreign Film Oscar for Belle Epoque, director Fernando Trueba said “I would like to believe in God in order to thank Him. But I just believe in Billy Wilder, so thank you, Mr. Wilder.” Legend has it that, to request a screening of Epoque, Wilder called Trueba and greeted him by saying “Hello, Fernando? This is God.”

I’ve thanked De Lawd plenty of times, but somehow never got around to thanking my favorite director. Today’s Five for The Day attempts to reconcile that grievous error. Yet rather than listing five Wilder films (which you are welcome to do), our five for the day goes the thematic route, opting to cite five themes consistently found in Wilder’s work. This is not a scholarly lecture nor is it a reach-around and post-coital foot massage for auteur theorists. I’m doing it this way solely so I can cheat. I’m greedy, and asking me to talk about only five Wilder movies is like asking Matt to disregard The New World.

The cynic in Mr. Wilder would be proud. After all, his movies are full of greedy characters out for themselves no matter what the cost. Herewith, the Wilder Side of the Odienator: