By Gerd Gemünden

With six Academy Awards, 4 entries at the American movie Institute s record of a hundred maximum American videos, and extra titles at the nationwide old sign up of vintage motion pictures deemed helpful of upkeep than the other director, Billy Wilder counts as the most comprehensive filmmakers ever to paintings in Hollywood. movie historians and critics, in addition to his colleagues, have continuously celebrated Wilder as an American grasp from the vintage studio period. but how American is Billy Wilder, the Jewish émigré from relevant Europe? to check Wilder s paintings is to ascertain the remodeling of numerous wealthy and sundry cultural sensibilities, formed by means of his adventure of displacement. This booklet underscores those complexities, unpacking underlying contradictions the place past commentators repeatedly smoothed them out. Wilder emerges as an artist with roots in sensationalist journalism and the area of leisure in addition to with an expertise of literary tradition and the avant-garde, beneficial properties that result in effective and sometimes hugely unique confrontations among low and high.

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It suffices to observe for now that even a superficial comparison of the two films clearly shows that the sense of community that still exists in the Berlin of 1931 is a long way from the alienation and atomism of wartime Los Angeles. One only has to consider how the shared efforts of the police and underworld (which in one memorable scene the camera even sutures into one coherent body) compare to the division and segregation along lines of race, class, and gender that characterize Los Angeles to understand that the relationship between capitalism and modernity had clearly reached a different stage by 1938/44.

17 Ridiculing the subjectivism of the Nouvelle vague and their “Santa Claus aesthetic,”18 Wilder has derided not only the films of Godard but any kind of filmmaking that indulges in the use of what he calls gimmicks—a selfreferential style of filmmaking that sacrifices classic plot structure and psychological motivation of characters for a formalism that draws attention to its own virtuosity. Thus elaborate camerawork, for example, that stuns the viewer yet fails to be motivated by the plot or a character’s point of view is not commensurable with Wilder’s notion of realism.

This image of southern California as a sterile and culturally shallow place populated by disenfranchised, disconnected, and dishonest people is what must have appealed to Wilder when he first read James Mallahan Cain’s short novel Double Indemnity at producer Joseph Sistrom’s suggestion, because it resonated with his own sense of being an outsider in Hollywood, no matter how professionally successful he had become by the early 1940s. Indeed, the sensibility of the films which would later be labeled noir certainly entertains close affinities to the sense of loss and cultural despair which many German language exile filmmakers experienced in 1930s and 40s America.

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