Lost Weekend, The (1945)


Loving that French title
Loving that French title

Genre: Film-Noir Drama

Starring: Ray Milland (The Thing with Two HeadsDial M for Murder), Jane Wyman (Stage Fright"Falcon Crest")

Directed By: Billy Wilder (Ace In The HoleSunset Blvd.)

Overview: This is the story of a hopeless drunk on a four-day long-weekend bender.

I, your host, Squish of Filmsquish, drinks. I drink often. Luckily for me, for my employers and for those around me it’s never been a problem. I’m more the Corona on a summer patio / glass of wine with my 1001 Club update / digestive port at the end of the meal kind of guy. My father once told me that when I was five years old, at a party at our house, he saw me grab an unattended glass of Crown Royal, and down it in one go. My reaction was not the expected one of getting grossed out, retching and turning green. Rather, I put the glass down and went on my merry way. Today, Crown Royal is still my favourite of the hard liquors. It’s a famous, classic, quality Canadian Rye Whisky. Our character in The Lost Weekend, is unfortunately, a horrible alcoholic. Liquor is his mistress, his friend, his wife, his boss and his enemy. Also, he’s a rye man, though not really the discerning type.

Don: Two bottles of rye... The cheapest....None of that twelve-year-old, aged-in-the-wood chichi. Not for me. Liquor is all one, anyway.

We begin, zooming in on an apartment window, a bottle of rye hanging off a string over the side of the building. Inside, the probably-not-recovering alcoholic Don and his brother, Wick, are preparing to take a train to the country and spend a few days to take in the fresh air. Don is noticeably troubled at the thought of being isolated from a bottle for so long. Don's girlfriend, Helen, shows up talking about going to a concert. Don suggests that she and Wick go to the concert together, and then come back in time to take the next train out. Eventually Don's brother finds and empties the liquor hanging out the window, and leaves with Helen, trusting that Don won't get into trouble in the next couple of hours. Don immediately scours the house for a drop of drink until eventually finding the maid's pay of $10 hidden in the sugar bowl. He heads to the liquor store, buys two bottles and heads to the bar and orders a drink. It's poured and quickly drunk, leaving a ring on the bar.

A beautiful quote for a beautiful shot.
A beautiful quote for a beautiful shot.

Don: Don't wipe it away, Nat. Let me have my little vicious circle. The circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning...

From this point on the story is unique, dramatic and straightforward, the highlight being the sure recipe for success in the incredible writing in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett screenplay, inspired by Charles R. Jackson’s novel. The Lost Weekend sometimes pulls the punches but overall it hurts when it needs to and conveys Don’s illness quite well.

Don: Nat, are you ever scared when you wake up? So scared the sweat starts out of you? No, not you. With you it's simple. Your alarm clock goes off and you open your eyes and brush your teeth and read the Daily Mirror. That's all. Do you ever lie in your bed looking at the window? A little daylight's coming through, and you start wondering: is it getting lighter, is it getting darker? Is it dawn or dusk? That's a terrifying problem, Nat. You hold your breath and you pray that it's dusk, so you can go out and get yourself some more liquor. Because if it's dawn, you're dead. The bars are closed and the liquor stores don't open till nine. You can't last till nine. Or it might be Sunday. That's the worst. No liquor stores at all, and you guys wouldn't open a bar, not until one o'clock. Why? Why, Nat?

Nat the bartender: Because we got to go to church once in a while. That's why.

Don:  Yes, when a guy needs it most.

Having previously seen Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses (1962), I couldn’t help but declare it inferior to Wilder's The Lost Weekend. My favourite scenes by far are the two psychologically heart-wrenching trips through delirium tremens, or DTs for you slangy types. One hospitalized patient hallucinates bugs all over him in the dead of night, and later Don himself suffers visions of vermin coming at him – an incredible and daring scene that pleasantly surprised me in its graphic display.

It pretty much makes you want to quit drinking mid-glass.
It pretty much makes you want to quit drinking mid-glass.
 

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 9 Plot: 7 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 80% (Immerse Yourself!)
Aftertaste:

I like tragic films quite a bit. Tales of deep and difficult human suffering appeal to me in that 'learn the lesson the easy way' fashion. Requiem for a Dream is by far my favourite of them, and I found that although The Lost Weekend could have been a tiny bit more poignant, Wilder and Brackett did a wonderful job of bending Hollywood's censorship rules enough to keep out the realm of something too fluffy. Billy Wilder also said about The Lost Weekend, his fifth feature as a director, "it was after this picture that people started taking me seriously."

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I was very impressed. I knew I wanted to see some more Billy Wilder films (having only seen Some Like It Hot and Sunset Blvd) and I wasn't disappointed. When the image of the shotglass ring came up, I knew I was in for a treat - even if it did get a bit weak during the hospitalization portion. That aside, fantastic film.


I think there is a huge difference between enjoying a drink or two and washing away your life in alcohol. Too many films equate the occasional drink with alcoholism, but I refuse to feel guilty when have a glass of Rioja to my food or a pint at the local joint with my friends after work. I appreciate your sentiment.
That said, having just seen The Lost Weekend I certainly feel no inclination to go on a bender anytime soon. Man, that guy is washed out.

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