Is Lubitsch funny?

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Daniel Eagan

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostThu Jun 28, 2018 11:28 am

It's a book review of a new biography by Joseph McBride. A not entirely accurate review.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 5:40 pm

And now the Washington Post weighs in with a story called "A forgotten filmmaker who influenced Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder gets his due." I'd say the headline refutes his premise, but if it's in the Post it must be true, at least in the sense that there are many people to whom Lubitsch is unknown, much like Henry James, Earl "Fatha" Hines, General Pershing, Ben Bradlee and so on.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertai ... 33951c4a03

Many years ago, when Lubitsch was still known, I had a book called 50 Classic Motion Pictures, by David Zinman (not the conductor), and one of the 50, if I recall correctly, was Ninotchka, the Garbo Laughs movie with her as a commissar won over by Parisian romance. Despite that, I think I haven't seen it since college. It was on Filmstruck, so I watched it.

Ninotchka is clearly the precursor to To Be or Not To Be, in that it mines the Soviets for comedy as the latter mined the Nazis. The difference, though, is a war. The latter film feels like real daring and defiance; Ninotchka just gets off some smart one-liners on a subject of less than great urgency.

In fact I found myself liking the screenplay more than the result; for some reason many things that seemed smart when I thought about them as written seemed to be damp squibs when they were performed. And at 110 minutes, awfully long for a comedy, Ninotchka has a lot of time to allow you to think that it doesn't work all that well. Garbo is charming once she laughs, but robotically dull till then. Melvyn Douglas as a Parisian roue... I've never found him that appealing (though much later, he's excellent in Hud) and the seduction scene, where Douglas is a bit flummoxed by Garbo's Vulcan-logical decision to couple, seemed sort of sad and creepy. While the Garbo Laughs scene is relentlessly unfunny in convincing us it's the funniest thing ever (actual, told jokes are never funny in a movie). Sig Rumann and a couple of other supporting players form a sort of impromptu Ritz Brothers as the trade delegates she's sent to investigate, and the hilarity of saying their Russian names over and over pales quickly.

Anyway, this is one classic that I do not think is very classic any more. To Be or Not To Be is certainly far better, sharper, and more essential.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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boblipton

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 6:21 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:And now the Washington Post weighs in with a story called "A forgotten filmmaker who influenced Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder gets his due." I'd say the headline refutes his premise, but if it's in the Post it must be true, at least in the sense that there are many people to whom Lubitsch is unknown, much like Henry James, Earl "Fatha" Hines, General Pershing, Ben Bradlee and so on.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertai ... 33951c4a03" target="_blank

Many years ago, when Lubitsch was still known, I had a book called 50 Classic Motion Pictures, by David Zinman (not the conductor).



Was the other Mr. Zinman a conductor on the Baltimore & Ohio? 'm sure the Post would be shocked I did not know; perhaps he was made of copper.

Bob
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 7:09 pm

Yes, that was kind of a joke, as if we all know David Zinman.

David Zinman

Other David Zinman
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Daniel Eagan

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 8:41 am

Best lines go to the supporting cast, like "This is a restaurant, not a meadow."
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Paul Penna

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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 9:06 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Yes, that was kind of a joke, as if we all know David Zinman.


If it's any consolation, I got the joke.
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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 9:10 am

Lubitsch films seem to me either hot or cold. My favs are SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and HEAVEN CAN WAIT, both loaded with sentiment. His more "sophisticated" films have a lot of sharp edges that perhaps appeal to certain tastes. Once he went too far with a line in TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942). This occurred when Jack Benny playing a ham actor in disguise can't help asking Nazi Sig Ruman if he ever saw Joseph Tura (Benny's character) perform in HAMLET. Ruman says yes. Benny can't resist asking what Ruman thought of his performance. Ruman replies, "He did to Shakespeare what we are now doing to Poland." This was roundly criticized at the time as being in extremely poor taste and, reportedly, Lubitsch was in shock because nobody had ever accused him of indulging in poor taste.
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Re: Is Lubitsch funny?

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 9:44 am

Boy, this guy loves NINOTCHKA.

Would someone more Cary Grant-ish have been better in the lead? Maybe, although Douglas here and elsewhere is a solid actor.

Is Greta standoffish at first? Well, yeah - that being the character and all! But I believe that she, and Lubistch, riff brilliantly on her own perceived persona there. And when she warms, she's as charming, and as cute, as she ever was on screen.

The Three (Slowly) Wise Men are terrific, and Bela does one of his calmest, neatest turns. (With this and Ygor, a banner year for him.)

Yeomanlike support all round, from Maxwell, Claire, Gaye, Tobias, et al.

Good stuff, rightly appreciated over the years.

- Craig
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