Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie of the Week – Sweet Smell of Success

This week’s movie: Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

J.J. Hunsecker is Broadway’s most powerful columnist, using unethical and unscrupulous means to keep and enforce his influence. And yet, Hunsecker has a problem. His sister is engaged in a romance with a jazz musician whom he does not approve. To break them up, he employs press agent Sidney Falco – a man just as ruthless as he.

Writer-director Alexander Mackendrick is one of the most talented filmmakers to ever emerge from Scotland’s film studies (and British film industry). He is often overlooked in film history, but Sweet Smell of Success is his masterpiece (and one of the best films of the 20th Century). Mackendrick also directed Whisky Galore, The Man in the White Suit, and The Ladykillers. He worked with composer Elmer Bernstein (one of the best), cinematographer James Wong Howe (whose film-noir photography in the film is exquisite), and production designer Edward Carrere on the film.

The film is built on its two brilliant leading performances. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are just so charismatically ghoulish – it is fantastic. Susan Harrison features in support.

Sweet Smell of Success is probably one of the best films you have never heard of blending the style of film-noir with a narrative that does not immediately seem like it lends itself to the genre. Yet, Falco takes on the role of the private eye and Hunsecker the villainous mastermind behind the scenes. The film inhabits a cruel, dirty, and treacherous world – one that is just utterly compelling. This is a must-see for fans of the film-noir genre.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

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