Monday, January 19, 2015

Buddy Buddy

Buddy Buddy; comedy, USA, 1981; D: Billy Wilder, S: Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Paula Prentiss, Klaus Kinski

Assassin Trabucco gets the assignment to kill a witness who is about to testify at the court, which would put a lot of criminals behind bars. Trabucco rents a hotel room from which he has a clear view on the street in front of the court, but to his misfortune the annoying TV censor Victor Clooney wants to commit suicide in the room next door because his wife, Celia, left him for sexual therapist Dr. Zuckerbrot. Trabucco leaves Victor at Zucketbrot's clinic, but he returns shortly before the witness is about to appear. In the commotion, Victor volunteers to shot instead of Trabucco, and actually hits the witness, disgused as one of the cops. Trabucco flees to a desolate island, but is shocked when a ship strands there, carrying Victor.

Billy Wilder's last film, "Buddy Buddy" caught the old master on wrong foot. A remake of Molinaro's excellent French black comedy "A Pain in the Ass", "Buddy Buddy" gives an interesting comparison at how two identical stories can be done the right and wrong way with only slight deviations in tone, structure, pace and jokes. Naturally, since the French original was there first, it seems fresher and more original, but that would not matter so much if Wilder and his often collaborator I.A.L. Diamond had actually given a new, further take on that concept, but alas, there were practically none. The movie starts out fine, but as time goes on, it is evident the story is one long empty walk with few jokes and a thin inspiration. Jack Lemmon never seems so annoying and clingy as was Brel's Pignon, which makes his constant hassle of assassin Trabucco, who has to unwillingly play his babysitter, far less of a good combination for a hysterical laugh and a clash of two opposites. Wilder's style was always 'good old shool' fashioned, with simple takes, but his emotions, humanity and character interaction gave his stories freshness and magical style of its own. Without them, this film just seems old fashioned. However, cult actor Klaus Kinski is golden as the hilarious sexologist Dr. Zuckerbrot (two funny scenes of his character holding a lecture about how to avoid premature ejaculation - by thinking of the seven dwarves from Snow White - and the "bedwetter" moment) whereas there are still some small remnants of the genius that was Wilder, which makes the viewers automatically think of how the film could have looked like with the director in his prime in the final scene.


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