Tuesday, November 29, 2005

100 Films: The Sweet Smell of Success

I just checked the statistics and it seems that as many as 10 people read this web log on a daily basis. So it is a little surprising that press agent leeches are hanging around trying to get me to name drop for them (example: 'speaking of Italian neo-realism, nothing is better than watching a good movie and having a slice of white pizza from The Pizza Company, by far the best deliverers in the South Hills' and so on). It is true: I tried to ruin a health club here, but that was a freebee and anyway the last time I checked my vitriolic posting hasn't effected those rotten swindlers at Frederick Athletic Club. But suppose I had 60 million faithful readers instead of 6? And suppose I was a newspaper gossip columnist in the 1950's? Well, those health club folks would be sorry then. At least that is what I've been lead to believe by watching The Sweet Smell of Success [1], a noir movie released in 1957. Incidentally, this was the same year that On the Road was published, and only 20 years after marijuana was made illegal. The film is about egotistical gossip columnist, J. J. Hunsecker, his slow moving kid sister, Susan, her would be fiance and aspiring jazz musician, Steve Dallas [2], and press agent/sycophant Sidney Falco [3]. J. J. won't publish Sidney's press agent tidbits in his column until Sidney breaks up Susan and Steve. This is a noir movie, so it doesn't end well. It is significant that the title mentions the sweet smell of success, but says nothing of its taste.

All that said, the movie actually works, which is interesting because:
a) It doesn't give us any characters to root for
b) It is shows contempt for both its characters, and by implication it's audience. People like J. J. exist because people like us read US Weekly. Or at least flip through it in grocery store lines when no one is looking.

It probably works because it is satisfying to see bastards fail, and because the writers pack it with relatively memorable pulp dialog. Still, like jazz wannabe Steve Dallas, the writers perhaps try a bit too hard to be cool.

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[1] See Lucas's Review and IMDB.

[2] He doesn't make much of a jazz player: in a shocking twist ending, rumors that he smokes pot turn out to be false.

[3] To my knowledge there is no relation to Falco the hit German pop star.

1 Comments:

At 12:28 PM, Blogger johanna said...

this is easily your funniest review yet...and it is satisfying to see bastards fail

 

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