Ace in the Hole (1951)

“Ace in the Hole” (1951)



“i don’t make things happen, i just write about them”

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

This is the film Wilder directed after Sunset Boulevard. This is an important thing to state. He was by than, i feel, immersed in several issues, some concerning his in satisfaction regarding life and cinema industry in America, and others concerning his exploitation towards noir and its narrative possibilities. My opinion is that Wilder took the original conception of noir to its limits with Sunset Boulevard. So in a away, he ended noir with that film. This one was sort of a reprise, a bonus track, a last breath of the primitive conception of noir.

The narrative core here is about writing, as with Sunset Boulevard. We have several entities which are responsible for “writing” visually what we see, and fight along the story for being in charge of the facts:

.the ‘seven vultures’, the natives belief. they are responsible, at least we suspect, for the imprisoning of a man, which will motivate the whole ‘circus’ (or was it pure coincidence? fate?)

.Kirk Douglas’ character, himself responsible for the report of the whole event, during a good part of the film. He is something of a god as he writes (and invents) everything we get to see. this is interesting because we don’t have Douglas as our noir ‘detective’, someone who is as blind about the events and what’s behind them as we usually do in noir constructions. We assume he manipulates everything, even though we suspect he will loose control

.The crowd. The circus Douglas called for self-promotion will take over, as a multi-headed monster (or a no-head monster); Douglas allows for this to happen, nevertheless e he lost (emotional) control as he moved along;

These three elements alone make our construction. This becomes noir as Douglas becomes victim and not god, and we get to question who is in fact controlling the whole thing. Was it in fact a ‘curse’ of the Indians, was it something we might call fate (Douglas was running from city to city until ending up in that town with an Indian tomb!). This is not good or influential as the masterpiece Wilder produced the previous year, but it is a good piece. The fact that the detective here becomes a writer and aims at controlling the whole thing hints that those behind this project were aiming at breaking noir and taking it to another level. This wasn’t it, it’s not an important film, it was even a commercial failure. But it was a good try.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb


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