Jonathan Coe vom Guardian verbeugt sich vor Billy Wilder, dem von seinen Kritikern gerne bescheinigt wurde, nicht „filmisch“ genug zu arbeiten und mehr an Sätzen und Witzen zu hängen als an Bildern: Sound and Vision.

It’s true, certainly, that some features of Wilder’s films are journalistic: their briskness and economy, their nervousness of losing the audience’s attention, and so on. But, despite his predilection for crafted dialogue and memorable one-liners (which, again, his detractors have somehow managed to turn into a vice), the most powerful moments in his films are not exclusively verbal, by any means. Rather, they arise from a masterly conflation of all the key cinematic elements – dialogue, visuals, music. In Some Like It Hot, for instance, there is a scene where Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe return at dawn, by speedboat, from their romantic night on Joe E Brown’s yacht. At the same time, Brown returns, on foot, from his romantic evening with “Daphne” (Jack Lemmon in drag). Curtis – guileful, treacherous – drives the speedboat up to the jetty in reverse. Brown – guileless, well-meaning – jumps into the boat and zooms off, forwards. All the time he is humming the tango to which he and Lemmon have been dancing all night, and momentarily, miraculously, it overlaps with Monroe’s orchestral love theme on the soundtrack, producing a transient, bittersweet harmony. All the film’s motifs of deception, role-reversal and romantic aspiration are beautifully contained in that wordless sequence.

Or what about the moment in The Apartment, when Lemmon insists on trying on his new bowler hat – the hollow symbol of his corporate aspirations – in front of Shirley MacLaine at the office Christmas party. She hands him her compact mirror and he notices that it’s cracked; realises, too, that it’s the same mirror he retrieved from his own apartment a few nights before, which means that MacLaine is not the innocent girl of his dreams, but his boss’s mistress. “What is it?” she asks. “The mirror – it’s broken.” And MacLaine replies, “I like it this way – makes me look the way I feel.” In that one image of Lemmon’s fractured face, and that one exchange of dialogue, a character’s entire world view is transformed, and all the narrative lines of the film suddenly run together in an overpowering fusion of emotion with cool dramatic irony. And this from an artist who, according to David Thomson, has no feel for the architecture of a film, but “prefers sniping to structure”.

2 Antworten:

  1. Bei Penguin ist übrigens anlässlich deren 70jährigen Bestehens auch ein kleines Bändchen mit Kurzgeschichten von Jonathan Coe erschienen (“9th & 13th”), in dem sich auch ein Bericht namens “Dairy of an Obsession” befindet, in dem Coe von seiner Besessenheit von einem Billy-Wilder-Film, “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”, erzählt, die Anfang der 1970er im zarten Alter von 14 begonnen hat und bis heute anhält.

  2. Und wer das mag, der kann dann auch noch “What a carve up” von Jonathan Coe lesen, a true classic. Ein Sittenbild der Briten in den Thatcher-Jahren, großartiger Plot, bissig, unter der Gürtellinie und trotzdem mit viel (Mit-)gefühl. Wirklich empfehlenswert.