Billy Wilder directs William Holden, Marthe Keller and Michael York in this mystery where a struggling movie producer tries to get his latest script to a reclusive Golden Age movie star who seemingly never ages.
Stodgy and predictable – the pleasure of an old movie is sometimes you want to see it run its rail. This is the last “old movie” ever made, twenty years too late, self consciously not New Hollywood. “It’s a whole different business now. The kids with beards have taken over. They don’t need scripts, just give ’em a hand-held camera with a zoom lens.” There are no shocks in Fedora, we are permanently a mile ahead of the storytelling… to the point where at the midway mark you might feel like there is no more plot to unravel. Yet it still unspools its tale, treating foregone conclusions like twists, tragic inevitabilities as surprises. Yet there’s something comforting in the funereal formality. Watching the old mode be dusted off one last time has pleasures. A flashback to flashbacks. It is bittersweet tribute about ageing, exploiting fame and female beauty. A Hooray for Hollywood that knows we have read Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and reserved Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest on pre-order. This depicts the scandal and urban legends as mythical curses, what happens to the addicted survivors of the Dream Factory. Watching an icon as she is turned to offal and immortal simultaneously. Wilder evokes the hits his fictional Fedora might have starred in. His own Sunset Boulevard is an obvious touchstone but the opening rips-off Citizen Kane, The Barefoot Contessa is pilfered liberally throughout and a dozen gothic romances are overexposed to the continental sun. It is such a faithful poison pen love letter, such an unfeigned footnote that you can’t help be a little seduced by all its sincere staleness. I was caught out by how much I enjoyed this creaky out of time relic.
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