Director Billy Wilder is interviewed by German critic Hellmut Karasek and director Volker Schlöndorff about his movies.
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Director Billy Wilder is interviewed by German critic Hellmut Karasek and director Volker Schlöndorff about his movies.

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Billy How Did You Do It?  »

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Featured in Filmstunde: Filmstunde 1 (1991) See more »

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A little lost in the translation
23 June 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was recently broadcast on Turner Classic Movies under the title "Billy Wilder Speaks." The German title actually translates into "Billy Wilder, What Have You Done (or Made)?" I'm assuming 98% of this documentary is originally in German - 98% because Wilder sometimes mixes German and English. However, now the beginning narration is in English and there are subtitles.

I don't believe it's possible to do a bad retrospective on Wilder, and certainly it's impossible to have a bad documentary when this witty, intelligent director is doing the talking. The problem with this film is that something got lost in the translation. The subtitles are slapped on and a little hard to read, and the documentary itself is hard to follow at times. For example, a film clip is shown and when the camera comes back to Wilder, he tells a story, and we're not sure who he's talking about. This happens several times throughout. Though Wilder says "he," the subtitle should actually have the name.

The director gives impressions and anecdotes about some of the actors with whom he worked: Shirley MacLaine, Gary Cooper, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Swanson and Marilyn Monroe. He also talks in some depth about a few of his films, most notably "Some Like It Hot," "Stalag 17," and "Double Indemnity." Quite fascinating is the story of showing his documentary about concentration camps, "Death Mills" to Germans.

Billy Wilder, 83 at the time of this documentary, was a brilliant director with a unique point of view who left us a legacy of some of the best films of all time. "Billy Wilder Speaks" makes you want more.


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