USA, 1957 (MIFF 1958, Programme 2)
Director: Alexander MacKendrick
In the artificially illuminated world of Cafe Society, overweening gossip columnists, and grovelling press agents, J. J. Hunsecker and Sidney Falco have already become mythical prototypes. They arc the leading characters of Sweet Smell of Success, a brilliantly executed film of evil and perversion. Alexander MacKendrick. a British director, hitherto known for his Scottish folk comedies (such as Whisky Galore), has captured the texture and rhythm of New York's night life with uncommon perception. Fifty-Second Street and Broadway north of Times Square. seem to pulsate with the conflicting ambitions of their inhabitants and the low-angle shots of brooding automobiles. MacKendrick's quick cutting, his claustrophobic camera technique. and his crowded placement of characters in restaurants and night-clubs, define a mileau that is at once dynamic and decadent.
Along the neon jungle stalks a megalomaniac columnist, who has an excessive adoration complex regarding his young sister. When the columnist learns that his sister is having an affair with a young jazz musician, he orders a shady, small-time press agent to act as his official hatchetman and break up the romance.
"Clifford Odets has provided some brilliant dialogue with an 'inside quality'. Influenced by the speech patterns of Rimyon and Lardner. Odets employs literate exaggerations detached from sentences. Sports parlance, theatre terms and frank sexual references cap each scene.
"Sweet Smell of Success represents the best possible treatment for its material. Its sophistication, underscored by the subtle rhythms of progressive jazz, its frank acceptance of immoral motivations, and its sheer melodramatic excitement. give it a fascinating surface that far nobler films lack." (Film Culture.)