Saturday, 15 August 2015

I've Just Seen: Ninotchka (1939)

Ninotchka (1939)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch

I loved this film. No surprise really: it's a romantic comedy from '30s/'40s Hollywood, directed by one of the best directors of the genre. Ninotchka stars Greta Garbo, who has one of those faces that the camera and human eye is drawn to. Garbo is playing against the public image of herself, as dour and serious. Ninotchka is this way at the film's beginning, but eventually breaks into laughter, revealing a lovely smile, that can't be suppressed for the rest of the story.

The communist vs. capitalist plot is treated with cheeky irreverence; communism's asceticism (and severity) is sent-up throughout, but Ninotchka is not completely converted to the capitalist way of life, and the idea of people helping each other is portrayed as a good thing. The plot turns on the selfishness of one character forcing Ninotchka to make a decision about her future. Really, though, this is not a critique of political philosophy; Lubitsch is cleverly showing how different aspects of human nature are represented in these ideals.

The screenplay is witty and clever, and much of the comedy comes from the characters themselves. Garbo gets many of the best lines, but Mervyn Douglas proves to be a good sparring partner, providing charming ripostes to her poker-face assertions. The three Russian men are funny as they indulge in the luxury of capitalist society.

Unless you hate romantic comedies, black-and-white films or subversive portrayals of politcal philosophies, you should enjoy this film.

1 comment:

  1. Even if there was nothing else to the movie than Garbo's hardline communist it would still be a wonderful movie to watch. Garbo is hilariously funny, keeping a straight face to outrageous lines. When she finaly cracks up the movie acually loses a bit of its appeal, but that is mostly a testament to how brilliant Garbo was as a hardliner.