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Sweet Smell of Success (1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, and starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Showtimes: Friday and Saturday, 7:00 & 9:00; Sunday, 5:00 & 7:00. Purchase Tickets Here.

Review by Trylon volunteer David Berglund, who writes about the movies with his wife, Chelsea Berglund, at their Movie Matrimony blog.

With vibrant and confident strokes, Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success captures the concurrent excitement and angst of life in an immense, overcrowded, and treacherous American metropolis. According to Mackendrick, the allure of the city is rooted in success and power. The film deftly displays that such pursuits are fraught with the temptations of pride, and the consequences of loneliness and anxiety. It is a warning to all prospective urban socialites that the road to glory is frequently marked by the abuse of inferiors and ends with an existential void.

Success tells the story of J.J. Hunsecker (a devilish turn from Burt Lancaster), a powerful gossip columnist, who uses the influence of his position to manipulate press agent Sidney Falco (a harried Tony Curtis) into being the middleman of a plot to halt his younger sister’s marriage to a lowly jazz musician. Hunsecker finds no joy in his work. He is simply a businessman who has found a rich and limitless market–the lives of others. In the words of King Solomon, “The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” And with any such deep-seated urge, there is always a business opportunity to be exploited by those not tempted by its charms. Hunsecker’s industry is ironically impersonal, dispassionately dealing in the most personal realities of other lives. As with the darkest aspects of corporate America, his end goal is not money, but the esteem and respect this money brings.

Yet, just as Solomon succumbed to the wiles of his vices, Hunsecker also carries a fitting tragic flaw and falls into the snare of his own success. He, too, seeks for meaning and purpose in the lives of others, but unlike his readers, cannot escape the spotlight. As a gossip columnist thriving on the unseemly secrets of others, he must avoid having any secrets of his own. His attempts to control his sister indicate a deeper, more widespread dilemma – there is no rest when relying on others for contentment. For Hunsecker, this means a foolish desire for control that fuels an insatiable thirst for power, and for everyone else, this means they better watch their backs.

It is fitting that a British director would be able to tackle such an American story, for it is many times the outsider who has the best vantage point.  Mackendrick’s big city and its sensationalistic media outlets represent an insulating force that feeds on the deception of vanity and swiftly blinds its inhabitants to the needs of others.  Yet, there is something universal to learn from this – everyone, whether urban or rural, has felt the compulsion to find their worth in others.  The intrinsic sarcasm of the film’s title answers with a bold indictment – if success is defined in the admiration of others, the pursuit will only bring a bitter outcome.

Tonight and tomorrow the Trylon is proud to host the regional premiere of Micah Bloom’s Codex. In response to a natural disaster, a team of forensic anthropologists recover, identify, and catalog hundreds of flood- ravaged books. Likened to a “filmic tone poem” in the vein of Koyaanisqatsi, Codex provides elegant and haunting visuals while, exploring loss, recovery and closure in the throes of digital migration. Director Bloom will be on hand both nights to discuss the film and answer questions.

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Here’s what Trylon programmer and volunteer John Moret had to say about Bloom’s film on All-Star Video:

“Micah Bloom’s Codex is a love letter to books.  In fact, it’s basically forty minutes of beautiful images of books devastated by the 2011 flood that hit Minot, North Dakota.

That being said, it’s also deeply thought provoking.

The physical and textile nature of paper books is an art form that, like the movies we review and love at this site, is slowly dying. The bindings, cover-art and paper quality profoundly change your experience as a reader. As all forms of media become more digitally based, the art form of the construction of books dies with it. Bloom explores this with carefully constructed sequences of technicians cataloging and studying books, as if they are already meant for archaeological digs.

When reviewing movies, we always comment on the art on the box of the film, the construction of special features, quality of transfers and different versions of the boxes because we love the idea of owning pieces of art. Books are the same way. With ownership, you have the ability to share and sell that piece as you choose. You can underline passages and dog-ear important pages. You have a visual memory of an idea that was in print. The agency of ownership makes you a part of a cycle, and allows room for the viewer to experience it as he or she wishes. With digital media, there is no displaying the beauty of a bound book.  There is no loaning that book to a friend. There is no ownership. It’s completely temporary.

Codex is simple, but it’s implications are complex. The printing press changed the world. The digital age is doing the same.”

Check out the trailer for Codex here. Codex screens at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 tonight and tomorrow. Tickets are $5 and are available in advance on the Trylon website or at the door.

 

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This weekend, get an up close and personal look at the nation’s biggest, and some say best, newspaper, the august New York Times. Page One: Inside the New York Times is a thrilling documentary about the paper’s stuggles with the advent of online journalism, and specifically when the Times ran a story using material from the controversial website, Wikileaks. Sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, this is one flick that news junkies won’t want to miss!

Shows Friday and Saturday, 7:00 and 8:45; Sunday at 5:00 and 6:45. Get tickets here.

“It’s not quite the same thrill as glimpsing the man behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz, but for journalism junkies, the fascination of Page One: Inside The New York Times is something like that.” –Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly