"Is she still standing there?"

“Is she still standing there?”

There’s an unspoken cruelty in our language that we don’t often think of. An equal and opposite reaction for every action. Perhaps we don’t think about this cruelty because it’s too depressing, or perhaps we fully realize that depression and keep on going anyway hoping that nobody will notice. When faced with any sort of decision, any crossroads, we use terms like “the right decision”, or “victory”. We forget that using words like these come with flip sides that could just as easily apply to the situation.

For every right decision there is a wrong decision. For every victory there is a loss. For every success there is a failure.

This piece might be a first for me in this series as I believe it’s the first time I’m posting about a film I’ve only just watched for the first time. I watched SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS at the urging of several readers, and as one might have guessed I loved it. It’s a film I hope to revisit often, but my fascination on this first watch was on the games being played between Hunsecker and Falco. There are other words for what they’re doing, of course – manipulation, personal relations, etc – but make no doubt about it, they’re playing a game…and in every game, there must be a loser.

But in this game, the loser won’t be one of these two players.

No, the big loser here is Susan; in a cruel twist, the person who dropped the puck in this game. She’s the one who’s love is being toyed with, the one who truly has much to lose. Here we see it, in a moment when the number on the scoreboard has just become too overwhelming, and she has decided to quit. She has taken off her metaphorical helmet and said “I don’t want to play anymore”. Like many athletes when they suffer a crushing defeat, all she can do is stand shell-shocked and wonder what just happened. She knows she’s not alone, she Steve – who she just broke things off with – might still be looking on from the other side of the doors, but she doesn’t care.

This is the sight of defeat. This is the sight of failure.

The really disheartening thing to consider when one comes away from the cookie full of arsenic that is SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS is that these things happen every day. We are all pawns in a game. The players could be our employers, our politicians, our spouses, our parents, or our media. As these games are played some players will will win, and some will lose – but those winners and losers won’t be us. We’re just the pieces – a means to an end.

That “end” can often be a bad one for us, far worse than for any of the true players involved. When that end comes, a big part of is feels like x in this image…and we don’t often care who sees us feeling like that.
 
Here’s three more from SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS for the road…

 

extra

Susan + JJ

get kells
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far