8. Billy Wilder
SUNSET BLVD., THE LOST WEEKEND, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SOME LIKE IT HOT
For a man whose work is so largely cherished by the happy ending loving country in which he conducted his career, Billy Wilder sure had a dark streak. The murderously opportunistic characters in Double Indemnity, the frank sadness of a loser and a smart girl with no self-esteem in The Apartment, the pure, almost happy, cynicism of Sunset Boulevard. Wilder, an Austrian Jew who fled Hitler, may have found a happy home in America but he was always eager to point out its darker side. Even a comedic romp like Some Like It Hot begins with the two leads witnesses a brutal mob murder. What makes Wilder’s films so watchable, though, is his insight and compassion, even for his least likable characters. Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond is a pitiable specimen to be sure but Wilder never mocks her, nor invites us to. He had respect for those who laid the path before him in his chosen field and he, in turn, deserves our respect today.
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