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Monday, 27 April 2015

Witness for the Prosecution

I don't understand people who don't watch old films, which is, well, most people. What's wrong with you?

I've just watched Witness for the Prosecution. A 1957 courtroom film based on Agatha Christie's short story/ play. Again, Billy Wilder proves himself a master and 1 of the finest film directors of Hollywood. Writing about his genius is difficult, I sound vague- everything fits perfectly together, the actors are well chosen and brilliant, all details and lines are impeccable... It's difficult to pinpoint where the greatness is, because there's nothing grand, and seemingly nothing complex, it's in the way he handles everything to perfection. You can change nothing, add nothing, remove nothing, and his best films no one could improve in a million years. It's also because of this elusive quality that it's hard to imitate or learn from Billy Wilder, because his wit, his ability to write unforgettable lines is something you either have or you don't, just as the talent for choosing the right actors and directing them is something you can develop but must naturally have and cannot just learn. 
In this case there's another reason, I cannot be more specific and spoil the ending. So please forgive me for my vagueness, and allow me to express my irrepressible admiration and enthusiasm: this film is a must-watch.





9 comments:

  1. Di,

    No argument here. This is one of the great courtroom dramas and one that I watch regularly, even though I know how it will end. Getting there is most of the fun.

    Great cast, great dialogue, and great direction.

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    Replies
    1. Charles Laughton's so good here, ain't he?
      And Marlene Dietrich's fantastic. I never could have guessed [censored].
      I'll watch it again at some point.
      Do you like Billy Wilder?

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  2. I felt sorry for Tyrone Power, though. He was like a child with adults. I thought he was the weakest one in the cast.

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    Replies
    1. Agree. But he's mostly weak in the last scenes. Throughout the whole film Billy Wilder got what he wanted from Tyrone Power, I think.
      I've heard that he didn't give the actors the last 10 pages until they shot those scenes.

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  3. Di,

    I hadn't heard that. Interesting. I guess he wanted the cast to be as unaware of the ending as the audience.

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    Replies
    1. Knowing the ending would/ could have affected their acting, I think.

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  4. Oh i have to check it out. I read the play 9 or 10 years ago but forgot what it was about.

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    Replies
    1. That memory loss is good. Check out this film, it's excellent.

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