Ninotchka is most famous and known for that fact that it’s a Greta Garbo comedy. Garbo was a well-known actress…iconic almost…so when she made her first comedy, I guess it was natural that the film’s tagline of “Garbo Laughs” revolves around only her and not around the movie, director, or other cast members. Don’t get me wrong…Garbo is great in this classic, though I feel that she is a excellent part of a excellent comedy ensemble that was put together and made to work seamlessly by famed comedy director Ernst Lubitsch, who helmed other comic classics such as The Shop Around the Corner and Trouble in Paradise. Also, the screenplay here is written by a pre-directing Billy Wilder and his early partner Charles Brackett. Garbo plays a Russian who heads to Paris to check up on three comrades who are supposed to be selling some famed Russian jewels. Garbo’s character, Ninotchka, is a stern, tough woman who despises Paris and all of its lavishness. This is, until she meets Leon, who represents everything she loathes around capitalism, but she falls for him anyway. Since Wilder, Brackett and Lubitsch’s work often goes unnoticed next to Garbo’s aura, while you’re watching his masterpiece, make sure you occasionally take your eyes off the goddess and take note of the stellar filmmaking.

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You know how all parents say that they do not have a favorite child. But, you KNOW they do. And, with a favorite, there’s always one that…just rubs them the wrong way. The one they think “what happened here?” all the time. Torn Curtain is my not-so-favorite child. Alfred Hitchcock was, to me, the filmmaker of all filmmakers. I like and admire other directors but Hitchcock will always be tops. And, then there’s a movie I have to justify and even recommend to people like this. It’s not that Torn Curtain is a bad film. It’s a good spy thriller. But, I’d come to expect Hitchcock to not make just GOOD films. I want to see perfection, like I’d usually seen in the past. Torn Curtain most definitely is not perfection. It’s a flawed film that eventually does work, but it takes more effort than it should. From what I know about the making of this one, I know Hitchcock and Paul Newman did not get along. And Hitchcock did not want to cast Julie Andrews. Sure, Hitchcock had been “forced” to work with actors he wasn’t that dazzled with before (think Kim Novak in Vertigo) but usually there was one star he was excited about…which got him through the movie. This time, both of his stars were not his favorites. Did that affect the film? Was Hitchcock so blinded by disappointment for the actors that he could not see his way to make a better film? Well, that’s one way to look at it. The story here is about an American scientist who fakes defecting to East Germany in order to get at the mathematical formula of a famed scientist on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The film has some great moments in it…the most notable being the killing of an East German agent who finds out the scientist is not legitimately defecting. Sadly, though, the great moments are too far and few between to call this a great Hitchcock movie. Thankfully, the Master of Suspense did redeem himself six years later with Frenzy. I’m not even going to acknowledge Topaz, which came in-between… Topaz, sadly, is another one of my unloved Hitchcock children.

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