A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955)

Tiresome, talky, and unfunny, this may be Billy Wilder's worst film. Wilder blamed the censors, who squelched all the sexual innuendos that he wanted to carry over from David Axelrod's Broadway play. In the play, the protagonist, whose wife and child have gone to Maine to escape the summer heat in Manhattan, has an affair with the young woman who lives upstairs. The censors insisted that they must remain chaste: She spends the night in his apartment, sleeping in his bed while he spends a restless night on the sofa. The lead of the play, the saggy-faced character actor Tom Ewell, was retained for the film, while the biggest female star of the day, Marilyn Monroe, was cast opposite him. The result is a sad imbalance: Ewell, who is on-screen virtually all 105 minutes of the movie, is allowed to overplay the role as if performing to the rear of the balcony. Monroe, whose role is considerably shorter, works hard at giving some substance to her character, though it's little more than the ditzy blonde she had begun to resent having to play. And the match-up of Ewell and Monroe is entirely implausible. (On stage, the part was played by the pretty but decidedly un-Marilynesque Vanessa Brown.) The film is remembered today chiefly for the scene in which Monroe stands on a subway grate and her dress is blown up by train passing below.