Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

10 July 2008

Sweet Smell of Success, dir. Alexander Mackendrick (1957)

NIKKI says:
Further proof that they don't make them like they used to. You know, we're supposed to think we live in the age of liberation, but watching a movie like this one, you realise things weren't so stilted and stale back in the day. So, they couldn't outright say bad words on screen, instead creativity came into play, and the evil words and callous thoughts and true reflections of the time had to be delivered smartly and less obviously. Well, this movie takes even that a step further. It's clever, but relatively free of innuendo here -- this is 1957 and Sidney Falco, press agent, chastises the naive young Susan Hunsecker:

"Start thinking with your head instead of your hips... By the way, I got nothing against women thinking with their hips. That's their nature. Just like it's a man's nature to go out and hustle and get the things he wants."

Wow, really? I often forget how progressive movies were back then if you just knew where to look. This is up there with the best crime drama and film noir in that it takes a harsh look at men, women, New York City, and society at large. We look at the way starlets and politicians and people in the public eye are made or broken by the press -- it feels like a new thing. But it's origins are old. This is the story of columnists and press agents and the tearing down of a young man's reputation based on the personal views and desires of the columnist himself, and the need for recognition by the press agent. The seedy pair come together and they don't care who's lives they destroy. And by the time one of them decides he has a conscience, it might just be too late.

This is a classic in every sense. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are on fire, trading jibes like racing tips. The writing is super-slick, the story builds expertly, and the fall out is devastating.

I said to Steve during that I just wanted to go live in old time-y New York where men wore suits all the time and the women were always coiffed, and there were cigarette girls and jazz clubs, and guys said things like "What me run a 50 yard dash with my legs cut off" instead of "watch me calm this guy down with my smooth, fast-talking". I miss the old days, especially the ones I only get to look at through some old filmmaker's lens.


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