Well, what can I say about this film? It is my favourite film and I must have seen it, I don't know, thirty or forty times at the cinema, several times on Television and I own the VHS Video and the DVD both of which I have watched dozens of times. It is like putting on one's favourite shirt or listening to a much loved piece of music that never disappoints and which throws up something new to enjoy each time.
I went to see it again last night in Screen NFT1 at the National Film Theatre. Each time I go I ask myself, why is it my favourite film? Is it really that good? Am I just kidding myself? And then, as it washes over me, I know that it really is that good and, no, I'm not kidding myself.
The cinematography is superb, the dialogue is crackling with no words wasted, the performances, not only by the main characters, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred McMurray, but also by the minor characters, are so well-rounded and full that one believes in every person one sees on screen. The music is beautiful and the direction whizzes the action on with sensitivity, assurance and brio. It is the best film made by Billy Wilder and he has made some superb films. And it is funny, if bitter sweet.
I first saw it at an all-night Jack Lemmon fest in London in about 1971. It was then just over ten years old. It was the third film on at about 2am. As it ended, I cried and cried. And each time I see it, I cry. About 4 years ago, I bought two tickets to see it at the National Film Theatre with my niece Olivia. I really respect Olivia's views about films and so I was very nervous about taking her because I thought what if she doesn't like it? As it happened, she cried off and so I went on my own. As I approached the door to NFT1, a young guy about 20 years old, ran up to the usher on the door and asked for a ticket. The usher explained that not only had he to buy the ticket at the box office on the other side of the building but the film was just about to start. I interrupted and said that he could have my spare ticket. The guy said that he had no cash and I said that he could have it for nothing as I had already wasted the money. He was very grateful. I said that, obviously, he would have to sit next to me and he said that was fine. But then I warned him that I would be in floods of tears at the end and he just shrugged and said it wouldn't bother him. Well, we watched the film and, as I was dabbing my eyes as the lights went up, I turned to him and saw tears running down his cheeks as well.
If you haven't seen it, get the DVD and enjoy. The trouble is that the format of the film has been repeated several times since but this is the original and this is the best...by far. But that is only my humble opinion - see for yourselves, you lucky people seeing it for the first time.
As last night's performance ended, the whole audience applauded. How often does that happen? Go on, buy it.