Billy Wilder's intolerance for human frailty has long masked his fundamental sympathy for frail humans. At this late point in his career, Wilder was letting the mask slip. This film (adapted, perhaps too faithfully, from Tom Tryon's novella) is a meditation on celebrity, the vanity of art, and the encroachment of age. There is more love in this structurally messy work than in any number of conventionally bathetic romances. Its spare classical style, its sense of character, and its occasional romantic excesses are all very much Old Hollywood (and Wilder has even included a jeremiad against the new boys in town). But the deliberate and sometimes dismaying anachronisms are signs of a deep, unshakable commitment to a personal aesthetic—a commitment that is sometimes more moving than anything in the film itself. With William Holden, Marthe Keller, Jose Ferrer, and Hildegard Neff (1978).
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