Talking About Suicide

Because it's not a taboo

Reading about “Suicide Movies: Social Patterns 1900-2009”

One of these days, the Lincoln Center branch of the New York Public Library will cough up its copy of the new book “Suicide Movies; Social Patterns 1900-2009.” (The library website says it’s in there somewhere.) The book calls itself the first comprehensive analysis of film suicides, more than 1,500 of them from the U.S. and Britain.

“One striking finding is that while the research literature generally attributes suicide to individual psychiatric or mental health issues, cinema and film solidly endorse more social causes,” the book’s website says.

The preface is less of an introduction to that finding than an overly detailed description of one of the 1,500 movies, the 2008 film “The Wrestler,” complete with screen grabs of star Mickey Rourke looking anguished. Only the last two paragraphs start to pick up a bigger thread, pointing out that the loss of the ability to work is a common theme in movie suicides, such as in the better “Million Dollar Baby.”

I’ll find out more. After posting here earlier about “The Apartment” and its treatment of suicide, I watched a few other Billy Wilder and/or Jack Lemmon films _ “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Front Page” and “The Odd Couple” _ and was surprised to see suicide come up in each one. And not just in passing. What was going on back then?

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