"I love this dirty town." Burt Lancaster is J.J. Hunsecker, a despot of a newspaper columnist not-so-loosely based on Walter Winchell. He's the king of

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Sweet Smell of Success

"I love this dirty town." Burt Lancaster is J.J. Hunsecker, a despot of a newspaper columnist not-so-loosely based on Walter Winchell. He's the king of this neon jungle, and he prowls it like a human panther. Alongside him, Tony Curtis delivers the scrappiest, most dynamic performance of his career as the jittery, restless press agent selling what's left of his soul to Hunsecker. Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is one of the most lacerating and vicious visions of the predatory city in American cinema—and one accomplished without a single murder, gunshot, or pulled knife. This is Broadway noir, a dark intersection of show business, politics, and the social register, in an era when gossip columnists held sway over an entire nation—not just some thin demographic slice. The dialogue, by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, is so sharp you could cut yourself with it. With the exterior scenes shot on the nighttime streets of New York's theater district by cinematographer James Wong Howe, Sweet Smell is alive with pulsing energy. Call it a cookie full of arsenic: bitter, yes, but delicious. (NR) SEAN AXMAKER

Wed., Feb. 6, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2013

 
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