Picks and Pans Review: Billy Wilder: the Human Comedy

UPDATED 02/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Wed., Feb. 4, 9 p.m. ET)

B

If you're unaware that the same man who directed Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard also directed Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and The Seven Year Itch, this documentary is for you. If you're already familiar with the career of versatile moviemaker Billy Wilder, this American Masters hour may seem superficial. The subject, now 91, was not interviewed on-camera for Billy Wilder: The Human Comedy, but there are numerous clips of him offering anecdotes and witticisms in other forums. Walter Matthau, who worked for Wilder in The Fortune Cookie, The Front Page and Buddy Buddy, reads the narration in a tone that would be more appropriate for Grumpy Old Men. Fortunately, he warms up a bit when appearing onscreen to praise the director in the first person. The documentary doesn't offer much of an explanation for why Wilder's career declined after the early '60s, but it provides some interesting insights into his classics, and it follows his cardinal rule: "Don't bore people."

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