The Seven Year Itch

There are few directors that had a career like Billy Wilder‘s. There are probably none that reached his level of skill and notability while staying as diverse as a storyteller. The man did drama and comedy with equal acuity, but his dominance of filmmaking almost didn’t happen. Born in what is now present-day Poland, Wilder left for Paris during the initial rise of the Nazi party in Germany and soon left for the States. He got out early, yes, but it’s difficult to think about the magic he’s delivered without being reminded that but for a few years he may have found himself a victim of the fear-mongering and murder that befell European Jews at the height of Hitler. Fortunately, he did get out and did go on to craft some of the best scripts and movies of the era (and, you know, of all time). His breakout was writing the hilarious Best Picture nominee Ninotchka; success he translated into a fruitful writing/directing career which produced a truckload of notable classics like Double Indemnity, A Foreign Affair, Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch, The Apartment, Witness for the Prosecution, Sabrina and more. The man was seriously prolific. With six Oscars and a ridiculous list of incredible films under his belt, he’s a perfect director to take a few tips from. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from a legend.

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Criterion Files

The 1980s proved to be an interesting and difficult time for auteurs of the 1960s and 1970s. Directors like Copolla, Scorsese, De Palma, Altman, etc. offered works that were far from their classics of the previous decade, but many of these films have aged well and proven to be compelling entries within the respective ouvres of these directors precisely because they aren’t part of their canon. While British director Nicolas Roeg did not play a central part in New Hollywood in the same way as the directors I listed, his 1970s work was certainly part and parcel of this brief countercultural revolution in narrative storytelling. I see Roeg as something of a British equivalent to Hal Ashby: someone who made brilliant entry after brilliant entry throughout a single decade, only to fade out of the spotlight once the 1980s began. But unlike the late Ashby, Roeg has continued making films during these years, and The Criterion Collection has taken one of his most perplexing entries from the era of Reagan and Alf out of obscurity. Insignificance (1985) is a strange film about a strange time. Based on the play by Terry Johnson, Insignificance stages an impossible meeting between iconoclastic minds as the likenesses of Marilyn Monroe (Roeg’s then-wife Teresa Russell), Albert Einstein (Michael Emil), Joe DiMaggio (Gary Busey), and Sen. Joe McCarthy (Tony Curtis) move in an out of a hotel room as they share a variety of 50s-topical dramatic scenarios.

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While some lucky individuals have already had the chance to see Simon Curtis’ peek into the life of a sex icon My Week with Marilyn at the New York Film Festival, the rest of us plebeians have to wait until November for our own chance. Now, early buzz for the Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe) vehicle has been favorable, however that is not what’s piquing my interest in the project. Rather I’m curious to see the maudlin-looking Williams’ embodiment of the sexpot. Williams is of course a stunning actress when she’s dressed for award season, but we rarely see that beauty on screen as she tends to embrace homely, makeup free characters. Clearly she will add an intriguing element of wistful sadness to the woman many of us wish to be.

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doubleindemnityposter

What begins as a standard sales visit about car insurance renewal, slowly builds piece by piece into a tale of infatuation, intrigue and murder.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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