Billy Wilder’s Fedora is one of my favourite films which I first saw in 1978, just after it’s unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival. Neil Sinyard and I had been writing a book about Wilder’s work and Fedora seemed to us a summation, albeit a flawed one, and we loved it from day one. As everyone on here will know, the film received a fairly negative press and Fedora’s commercial career was brief - it sort of vanished even before it had appeared. The only DVD was Spanish and which looked like a duped VHS.
Now there is a Blu-ray from France which I have just seen. The movie is released by Carlotta Films and is in English with French subtitles which cannot be removed. The quality of the image is simply magnificent, bringing to life Gerry Fisher’s lustrous photography.
There is also a magnificent documentary, Swan Song, which is almost as long as Fedora itself. Directed by Robert Fischer, it’s a leisurely history of the production featuring interviews with actors Marthe Keller, a startling-looking Michael York and Mario Adorf; Gerry Fisher; production executive Harold Nebenzal and IAL Diamond’s son, Paul. All these interviews are excellent, full of info and anecdote, though unfortunately Keller’s interview is in French and not subtitled. There are also several archive selections from on-set footage and various press conferences.
One of Fischer’s key associates on the documentary is Rex McGee, who was a sort of intern on the movie and had a small role as the official photographer from AMPAS in the magical Henry Fonda sequence. McGee reportedly once had a print which was 7 or 8 minutes longer than the theatrical release and which also contained the full and unexpurgated Miklos Rozsa score. While the documentary does include one deleted scene, it doesn’t really delve into the reasons for the cutting or the unfortunate rift in Rozsa and Wilder’s long relationship.
All in all, this rather pricey Blu-ray has resurrected a rather lost movie and hopefully it might now find an audience. Given Robert Fischer’s relationship with Criterion, perhaps we can look forward to a Criterion edition in due course.