Monday, June 14, 2010

Billy Wilder Speaks

I am adamant that Billy Wilder is one of the best director’s to have ever lived. He has a filmography that would make Spielberg jealous: Stalag 17, Sabrina, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Love in the Afternoon, Ace in the Hole, Irma La Douce, Sunset Blvd. and a myriad of other films that I know you’ve heard of. Luckily for me, I found a little documentary on Netflix called Billy Wilder Speaks.

In this case, the documentary is exactly what the name might imply. The filmmakers piggybacked onto a series of interviews Wilder was doing for a book and filmed them with the proviso that they not do anything with the footage until Wilder was dead; Wilder was traditionally pretty secluded and thought the footage would embarrass him if released while he was alive. I have to say I think this was a beautiful yet simple film that gave me the best present I could have asked for – a trip into Billy Wilder’s thoughts.

For just over an hour the film is a series of conversations with Wilder in both English and German, talking about his life, his films and why he made the works he did. Perhaps the tidbit that made me feel the best was when Wilder told of how the day before he was to start his directorial debut The Major & the Minor he went to Ernst Lubitsch his friend and mentor and admitted to him he was scared out of his mind; Lubitsch turned right back at Wilder and said that even though he’d made over seventy films he was still terrified on the first day of every one of them.

This is the kind of candid talk you can’t get from a press conference or an interview and it was wonderful for me to hear it out of the mouth of one of the filmmakers I respect the most.

I’m sure Billy Wilder Speaks is not for everyone, but for those that it will appeal to it’s a gem. I only wish I could find my Cameron Crowe book Conversations with Wilder so that I could really make a weekend of immersing myself in Wilder’s mind.

Directors: Gisela Grischow & Volker Schlondorff

No comments: