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For all their technical excellence, lavishness, and slavish emphasis on accuracy, Hollywood's motion pictures can seldom be hailed as either sensitive or powerful. "The Lost Weekend," however, is both of these.
When the screen rights of the Charles Jackson novel were bought by Paramount, many people seriously doubted that this novel of a dipsomaniac, the theme of whose life has been one long dissonance of wasted talent and alcohol, with overtones of homosexuality, could ever be made into a picture at all.
That it has been made into a picture, and into one of the best with in recent memory, is largely the work of three men; Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, who adapted the novel of the screen, and Ray Milland, who plays the part of the hero, Don Birnam. Wilder, whose handling of "Double Indemnity" began the current wave of violent, tough guy films, also directed "Weekend."
It is his fine Austrian hand which is responsible for the picture's most memorable moments--Birnam's organized, stumbling search down New York's Third Avenue in search of an open pawn shop, the nightmarish scene of delirium in Bellevue's alcholic ward, Birnam's whirling crash down a whole flight of stairs.
There are weaknesses: the film is episodic and some of the sense of mounting horror at this rake's progress is lost because of this. The ending, Wilder and Brackett's genuflection to Hollywood's age-old formulate of the Happy Ending, is contrived and unbelievable. But Milland'e portrayal of the harrowing frightfulness of hangover, the prissy and cynical male nurse in the alcoholic ward, and numerous minor touches will all hit you where you live.
To say, as so many reviewers have, that "The Lost Weekend" is a powerful tract against alcoholism is to miss the point of the picture completely. Rather is it the story of the moral degradation of a human being, in whose weakness and sensitiveness we can discern ourselves.
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