Every frame is like a painting in Sweet Smell of Success
There’s something about the journalistic profession that makes it hard to get “right” on the movie screen. Once upon a time I worked as one, and until this day I haven’t seen a single movie that was anywhere close to the job I had.
Perhaps I wasn’t representative for the average reporter. Or – more likely – everyday tasks such as writing stories about the yearly tennis summer camp for children aren’t film material.
I’ve never recognized myself in movie journalist, regardless if they’re serious, idealistic and admirable investigating reporters or (which more often is the case) they’re cynical looser types with a sub-par ethical standard and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The columnist and the PR agent at the center of Sweet Smell of Success are no exceptions from this. They’re far beyond anything I’ve ever seen: completely corrupted and utterly uninterested in providing anything resembling to the truth to their readers.
But in the end the lack of realism doesn’t really matter. The idea of this little story about the power games between two unpleasant men isn’t to provide a documentary about the media business at that time. Its purpose is to entertain and it does this very well.
I don’t know what I love most about this film. Is it the smattering, poisonous, beautiful, beautiful dialogue, reminding me of the wits in All About Eve? Or the fantastic lead performances by Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and New York City? Or is it that the movie looks so gorgeous that I could take dozens of frozen screenshots out from it and put on my wall as a piece of art?
All I know is that I loved it. And that I need to get over my skepticism towards film noir. If there are more films like this one, the genre has more to offer than I’ve given it credit for.
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, US 1957) My rating: 4/5