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I May Destroy You
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Billy Wilder and Ray Milland garnered high praise for this insightful look at alcoholism, but it hasn't aged well, the look and feel of a over-earnest public service announcement all over it. And why? Because the film's greatest fantasy is that other people care about the fate of an alcoholic whereas in real life the streets are littered with them, bodies in the gutter that are walked over daily. Frank Faylen and Doris Dowling have the most interesting parts, one as a seen-it-all nurse at an alcohol treatment facility and the other a good-time girl waiting in the wings, despite having seen-it-all. Still, a relevant concoction, simply too close to Reefer Madness in tone to call.
Good movie, weird soundtrack.
Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend is his most personal project and I can see why. A soon-to-be-successful writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) helplessly delves himself into alcoholism while his brother Wick (Philip Terry) and girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) desperately attempt to unplug his rye bathtub. He spends his weekend sneaking in rye bottles, sneaking into bars, ending up in rehab, hallucinating, pawning Helen's jacket for a gun, and attempting suicide. I guess what made this film popular at the time was not only the melodramatic effects of alcoholism but also the tragic result of World War II, particularly the Holocaust. I bring this up because Wilder was of Austrian-Jewish heritage and his older family died in Nazi concentration camps. In The Lost Weekend, the rye bottle and its addicting effects resemble the Nazi party overpowering and torturing the main character, the Jewish people. Helen and Wick are the Allied Powers fighting the party to win the war. Also, the moody film noirish lighting serves as a weapon, aiming its target on Don and slowly killing him, like a bat eating a mouse on the wall. With everything said, The Lost Weekend is a passion drama that bounced in Billy Wilder's head for some time. While it's not the most accurate depiction of alcoholism and the happy ending comes sporadically out of nowhere, it is one of the finest relevant and powerful films from the 40's.
(4 ½ Bats Eating Mice in Holes out of 5)
The greatest film on this subject ever made.
From an Academy that previously often couldn't resist giving top honors to the biggest box-office draw or a predictable mess, The Lost Weekend stands as a defiantly bleak film to receive such praise in such early years, particularly when you consider that it doesn't incorporate any sort of military element. The film draws in the audience to circle the drain with an increasingly desperate author in depressingly somber detail, led by a career performance from Milland. While it may seem dated to promote alcoholism as the seemingly ultimate vice that the film makes it out to be, particularly with so much hindsight to benefit us, the commentaries on addiction are still pretty sharp. (4/5)
So in my 2020 quest to see all the Oscar winning Best Pictures, I can now cross "The Lost Weekend" off my list! It won in 1946.
Written and directed by the legendary Billy Wilder my hopes were high and I wasn't disappointed. This was a raw and unflinching view into the daily life of a late stage alcoholic. It starred Ray Milland who I previously always considered a very flat actor. I was supremely impressed by his performance. He too won the Oscar for best Male Dramatic performance.... deservedly.
I'm still not sure that I appreciate the ending (I won't spoil), but I won't soon forget this one. And that's the best outcome I can ask for in this year long endeavor!
Its a very honest and powerful movie. Ray Milland is terrific in the lead role. His desperation and pain shown through his facial expressions and as he sweats. The way the film shows Milland at his lowest from stealing from others, ending in hospital and constantly on a down spiral which may end his life. There are lots of moments which make for uncomfortable viewing and i guess thats the point. We are there with him like we are in his documentary where we can not help him and just watch him self destruct. The hospital scenes are very unnerving. The effects of alcohol laid bare and watching as Milland loses his mind in the middle of the night with hallucinations is startling and really well filmed. The nuisances of shadows play an important role as the blood of the mouse dripping down the walls. I thought the sound throughout was terrific as we are inside the nightmare. Whenever he put a cigarette its always changed to the right way around like a constant feeling he gets things wrong and is not in control of what is right. My one gripe is why his girlfriend stays with him and thinks that she can change him when its been 3 years. This film is a scary of many horror films. The mind of an alcoholic is more horrific than i can remember. I did feel scared. I did feel nervous. I did feel anxious. Billy Wilder should be congratulated for the film, the way it looks, the performances and for showing a social conscious. A very tough film to watch at times and one i will not want to re-watch too quickly. A scintillating lead performance which was fully rewarding of the best actor Oscar.
Billy Wilder's 1945 Academy Award Winning Best Picture The Lost Weekend tells the story of an alcoholic writer falling off the wagon one weekend and going on a four-day drinking binge. The novel upon which the script is based was autobiographical, and Wilder was inspired to adapt it for the screen after Raymond Chandler relapsed into alcoholism whilst they were working on Double Indemnity; it is little wonder then that the film's depiction of alcoholism remains so realistic.
The story focalises almost exclusively through alcoholic writer Don Birnam, who is in almost every scene. Opening with him being left to his own devices by his brother and girlfriend after a short period of sobriety, the film charts his rapid descent back into drunkenness: drinking on the first day leads to a hair of the dog morning drinking session on the next, and so it goes on, as Don runs out of alcohol and the means to buy more, resorting to theft, pleading and pawn shops to keep his drinking spree going, building to a night in a psychiatric ward, an episode of delirium tremens and ultimately an attempt at suicide.
Actor Ray Milland was not Billy Wilder's first choice as leading man, but he proves to be an inspired one. He reportedly decided to try and understand alcoholism for the role, even spending a night in a psychiatric ward filled with detoxing alcoholics, and his homework shows (he also deliberately lost weight for the part). He gives an astonishingly naturalistic performance, making Don alternately pathetic, reprehensible, self-pitying and sympathetic as the story unfolds. He also does a lot of acting when he's alone without dialogue and conveys a great deal through facial expressions and body language. This is most obvious during the scene in which Don realises that he has still has a hidden bottle of alcohol in his flat and becomes determined to remember where he hid it, and again when he starts hallucinating.
Scriptwriters Wilder and Charles Brackett translate Don's character from novel to screen and make him completely believable. Alcoholism, as the film constantly reminds us, does not bring out people's best traits. When confronted with the evidence of his secret bottle, he blatantly lies by saying he didn't know it was there and reacts with anger when anyone tries to be sympathetic or supportive. He steals, but becomes outraged when he's called a thief and he loses his dignity when he takes money from a woman's purse in a club and is thrown out to the jeers of the other customers and the singer's ditty of "somebody stole her purse". Yet in spite of his behaviour, the script – and Milland's performance – invites the audience to empathise and it does so to the extent that it drawers the viewer into the central paradox of Don's alcoholism; towards the end, we want him to defeat his addiction, and yet are just as desperate as he is for him to get another hit and thus provide short-term relief from his suffering. The film also acknowledges that alcohol is so potentially problematic because for a while it makes Don feel great: after all, if it didn't, nobody would drink anyway.
The script and Milland's performance are not the sole reasons for the success of The Lost Weekend. Philip Terry and Jane Wyman are just as convincing as Milland is as Helen and Wick, both at their wits end after lengthy attempts to help Don; Helen, admirably, refuses to give up on Don and ultimately offers him not just support but salvation. Howard da Silva's performance as Nat – a long suffering bartender who takes pity on Don enough to return his typewriter to him – is also noteworthy and there's a blissful performance from Frank Faylen as matter-of-fact and slightly eccentric nurse "Bim" Nolan. Miklós Rózsa's score – which features a theremin – reflects Don's changing moods and state of drunkenness. Its discordance jars the viewer's nerves when a withdrawing Don tries and fails to pawn his typewriter and Milland makes him look increasingly desperate, with the help of some fades and cuts that makes time seem to pass interminably as he stumbles around the city. The use of light and shadow during the scene in the alcoholic ward when Don manages to escape recalls Wilder's film noirs. The hallucination scene is nightmarishly shot, allowing Wilder and cinematographer John F. Seitz to overcome the limitations of the unconvincing bat prop. The brilliant opening panning shot ends with a close-up on Don's window, which has a bottle of alcohol hanging from it on a string, telling us a great deal about the movie before a single line has been uttered. Wilder's insistence on filming part of the movie on location in New York pays off; the location and studio filming seamlessly meshes. The detailed sets are so detailed that they actually look like locations, so it is little wonder that one of them was an exact replica of a real-life bar. Wilder's ingenious approach of hiding camera's so Milland could be filmed walking along the street without the passersby realising they were being recorded is one of many masterful techniques employed here.
Relentlessly grim as the story is, the film ends on a cautiously optimistic note, whilst nevertheless leaving the audience aware that Don will always be at risk of a relapse. The Lost Weekend may have been made in 1945, but its portrayal of alcoholism remains as accurate and as relevant today as it was then.
An Oscar-studded warning film that was, no doubt, far more potent seventy years ago. In addition to three other wins (including Best Picture), leading man Ray Milland took the gold for his central performance as a desperate, cash-strapped, bridge-burning alcoholic at the end of his rope following yet another ill-fated flirtation with sobriety. Milland portrays an effective lush, both charismatic and conniving, a man who's almost able to conceal his inner demons from the public. Almost. And the depths he's willing to plunge for one last taste of whiskey make it easy to comprehend his immediate family's desire to wash their hands of the errant son.
The whole affair is often blunt and hammy in presentation, though; maybe not as excessive and misleading as its contemporary, Reefer Madness, but certainly not far from the ballpark. There's an odd sense of the aloof at play here, dredging the depths in search of new lows without bothering to dig any deeper into the sickness at the heart of all the troubles. Its jarring happy ending smacks of insincerity, too, and needlessly undermines the tale's moral base. Not as bad as I seem to be letting on, especially considering the well-connected alcohol industry's vehement opposition to its subject matter, but a curious award-winner all the same. It's good at times, but never great.
Like reading one of the stories out of the Big Book, the drunk-a-log portion. Captures the insanity, demoralization and powerlessness