Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Movie Review

"Well son, it looks like we have to call this game on account of darkness."

Year: 1957
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Casts: Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Barbara Nichols
Genre: Fim-noir

Received a poor success upon its preview screening because it was seen as a direct attack on Walter Winchell, -who for decades had been one of America's most powerful columnists and most controversial regarding his questionable methods in gathering his information-, but then years later this film gain stature and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The film exposes the darkness of New York City's media sensationalism publicity revealing greed, corrupt ambition, betrayal, deceit, blackmail, and cynicism beneath it and is populated with different characters that inhabit this world of shadows.

The story revolves around a greedy press agent named Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) with an ambition and willing to get ahead with any means necessary to get into J.J Hunsecker's good graces. J.J Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is an egoistical columnist with a readership of millions who's eager is to stop his sister Susan (Susan Harrison) from marrying someone he didn't approve of, young jazz guitarist Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Sidney is so desperate of ambition that he agrees to help Hunsecker break up his sister and her musician boyfriend. From then on the story reveals of how the manipulation and misused of power is at the cost of people's lives. 

The film excels on its character study where the audience remember them as types of people range from the arrogant to the desperate that exists in our everyday life and delivered in this film by an unbeatable cast. Hunsecker is brilliantly played by Burt Lancaster whose power and his threatening trait can be feel by the audience and define one of the greatest movie villains on-screen. Tony Curtis also convincingly portrayed the press agent with no morals with his acting outside of his normal role of the charming and funny man. Susan Harrison and Martin Milner also pulled off as the overshadowed pure lovers swimming in an ocean full of sharks. 

Beside the wonderful performance, Sweet Smell of Success also stands out with its sharp script. It has memorable intense dialogue especially between Curtis and Lancaster exchanging dynamic quick-fire lines that sometimes littered with metaphors and poetic cynicism. Screenplay writers, Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets created one of the arguably finest screenplay ever written.

The film also shot through with sinister atmosphere showing the villainous side of New York City. Photographed in high contrast of black and white by cinematographer Jame Wong Howe. This is also complimented by Elmer Bernstein’s Jazz score, which helps embracing the energy and the the spirit of New York in a golden age.

Sweet Smell of Success is a cynical approach of compelling study and uncomfortable look  of what some people will do to achieve money and fame. Its memorable.

My rate: 4.5 / 5 Memorable


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