Dir.: Billy Wilder | Cast: William Holden, Marthe Keller, Hildegard Knef, Frances Sternhagen, Mel Ferrer | France/W Germany | 116min.
Since his last film Buddy, was just a remake of a French comedy, FEDORA can be easily counted as Wilder’s swansong. Some view it as a masterpiece, others, a misguided attempt to recreate his classic Hollywood movies.
Down-on-his luck producer Barry Detweiler (Holden) learns about the death in a train accident of the famous actress Fedora (Keller), who seems never to have grown old. Detweiler suspects foul play: when he visited her two weeks before the suspected ‘suicide’, the actress seems to have been kept like a prisoner at her home by the shady countess Sobryanski (Knef), the servant Miss Balfour (Sternhagen) and her doctor (Ferrer) who was responsible for her seemingly eternal youth. It then emerges that Fedora had a daughter, and Detweiler is determined to delve deeper.
Holden narrates Fedora in the same style as Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, but that’s where the comparisons end. After the commercial failure of Front Page, Wilder had difficulty finding a Hollywood producer for the project, even though his crew was really stellar: DoP Gerry Fisher (Wise Blood), veteran PD Alexandre Trauner (Irma La Douce), composer Miklos Rozsa (Quo Vadis), editor Fredric Steinkamp (Out of Africa) and Wilder’s long time co-writer I.A.L. Diamond. But none of them could compensate for a script which oscillated between nostalgia and self-parody. Fedora has a certain charm and old-world emotional intensity, and is certainly worth a watch as a Wilder curio. AS
OUT ON DVD FROM 26 SEPTEMBER 2016