Movie Review – The Apartment

The Apartment (1960)
Written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond
Directed by Billy Wilder

As we come to the end of this Billy Wilder retrospective, we get to what might be the most excellent comedy of his later years. It’s so interesting how we began with the dark & bleak Double Indemnity and come to this comedy-drama. That isn’t to say that The Apartment lacks maturity. It’s a finely developed and sensitive picture about adults and the complexity of relationships & sex. The two films have more in common than what you might think at first glance as they are both about the darker side of adult relationships, one more outlandish than the other.

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Movie Review – Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot (1959)
Written by Billy Wilder & I. A. L. Diamond
Directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder, as previously established, authored or at least refined many of the comedic subgenres in mainstream American cinema. Some Like It Hot takes classic tropes from authors like Shakespeare with the protagonist in disguise as another gender who is in love with another character and modernized them. Some Like It Hot is set in the 1920s, but its story is a classical one seen through the 1960s’ eyes while reflecting back across literature. There are definitely some problematic issues when viewed through the context of our modern gender progressive era. Additionally, it is a genuinely entertaining and influential piece of film.

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Movie Review – The Seven Year Itch

The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Written by Billy Wilder and George Axelrod
Directed by Billy Wilder

Watching these later works by Billy Wilder feels like if David Fincher went from doing dark thriller movies to working exclusively in light comedies. They aren’t bad, but they are definitely not as strong as the earlier work. The Seven Year Itch is another film based on a stage play, and it feels like through the first half. It’s slow, and the main character thinks aloud constantly, which gives away the stagey-ness of the production. Throughout the film, I kept thinking of Mad Men and how this picture was pretty dated with its portrayal of marriage.

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Movie Review – Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina (1954)
Written by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, and Samuel A. Taylor
Directed by Billy Wilder

Sabrina is not my favorite Billy Wilder film. I’ve never been a big fan of the romantic comedy, but compared to modern fare in that genre, Sabrina is a masterpiece. This feels like the ur-text of romantic comedies, all of the serendipitous tropes and plot contrivances to work towards a happy ending. The plot couldn’t be more simple, but that is to the film’s favor, keeping the cast pared down so that time is spent developing core relationships. There are side characters that exist to provide comedic relief. It’s all very fluffy & light, a great tasting meal of cotton candy.

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Movie Review – Stalag 17

Stalag 17 (1953)
Written by Edwin Blum & Billy Wilder
Directed by Billy Wilder

It’s strange to say that Billy Wilder’s film about Americans in a Nazi prisoner of war camp is the most light-hearted of his movies I’ve watched so far. But that is most definitely the case. I almost wonder if Wilder took a step back from the bleak tone of his previous work, especially after Ace in the Hole was received so poorly by American audiences. Stalag 17 is much more of a “cheer for the heroes” type of film, but Wilder still manages to make the main protagonist buck conventions.

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Movie Review – Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole (1951)
Written by Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, and Walter Newman
Directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was wildly prescient when it came to the worst of mankind. Long before 24-hour news cycles became a thing, Wilder was already foreseeing a time where a small incident could be exploited by the media into something more substantial. The forces of entertainment would find ways to prolong human suffering because it makes such a compelling narrative to the public. Wilder makes no bones about how he believes humans often succumb to their worst impulses and delivers a noir film that doesn’t need Los Angeles to give it atmosphere.

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Movie Review – Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D. M. Marshman Jr.
Directed by Billy Wilder

Movies about making movies was not a new thing when Sunset Boulevard came along. What was novel about this film was that it wasn’t a story of rags to riches, a reflection on the dream of fame. This is a film noir version of those Hollywood tales. Our protagonist is a screenwriter who fails to make it big. The antagonist is a movie star who fell from great heights and never recovers. Much like in Day of the Locust, we have an examination of the effects of a system that promises wealth & fame that rarely delivers those dreams.

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Movie Review – The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend (1945)
Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder
Directed by Billy Wilder

After working with Raymond Chandler on Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder felt drawn to develop the novel The Lost Weekend for film. Chandler was a notorious alcoholic, and his addiction greatly affected the production of that film. Wilder admired the craft and art that Chandler brought to his writing but was struck with how awful he became when craving drink. Wilder decided to dive into making this movie as a way to better understand what was going on in Chandler’s mind.

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Movie Review – Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (1944)
Written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
Directed by Billy Wilder

Damn, that was a good movie. You will, of course, feel like you’ve seen and heard this before, which speaks more to the profound influence this entry into the film noir genre has had on the culture. It’s said to be the movie that set the standard for all film noir to come after. A few months ago, I watched the pilot episode of Columbo and was reminded of how similar the murder plans are. You may recall The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple or The Man Who Wasn’t There, both obvious nods to this masterwork. I can’t express how satisfying it is to finally see a film held up as a significant part of the canon and see that it truly lives up to the hype.

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