If The Fortune Cookie isn't as powerful as Billy Wilder's earlier masterpieces, it's not as far off as its relative obscurity would imply.
It may be that with its real locations, non-professional performers, and documentary-style cinematography of the city surrounds, People on Sunday presages aspects of both Italian neorealism and the French New Wave. but it’s also a film about presaging.
Wilder's early work in romantic comedy—Bluebeards Eighth Wife, Midnight, Ball of Fire, and The Major and the Minor—makes it easier to spot the element of enchantment that lingers in his tonally complex mature comedies
A crackerjack pulp thriller that alternately smirked and shocked its way into defining both a expanding cinematic genre and a director’s burgeoning career with its gallows vantage, Double Indemnity also maybe lets slip the secret of life as it nuzzles up against (and makes a joke, seduction, and parable out of) death itself.
If one considers the chief tension of Billy Wilder’s work as the push and pull between cynicism and romanticism, the closing moments of a Wilder film complicate the notion that one can ever fully vanquish the other.
Wilder makes a huge jump in genre between these films—from an existential noir to an off-beat romantic comedy—but the two share a kinship; both can be read as cautionary tales for what happens when you mix business with pleasure.
We are all slowly suffocating on the dust of this country, on the oxygen-less air of American exceptionalism. No one is coming to drill us out.