Saturday, December 08, 2007

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER is amazing. I'd seen bits of it on TCM on occasion, but never really sat down and watched it until I saw it at Film Forum in an excellent print. It looked like it had beenshot the day before, very sharp and clean. I wasn't prepared for how really excellent this film is.
I knew thebasic outlines of the plot, the famous device of the pen-pal lovers who don't realize they know and dislike each other in real life. This was handled beautifully, with real feeling and humor byLubitsch, Sam Raphelson, and most especially the actors. I don't think I'd ever seen Margaret Sullavan before, and was very taken with her. James Stewart blew me away all over again. Neither one of them makesa single false move.
But the real surprise for me was finding the darker shadings in the story. This is not a sweetness and light romantic fantasy. Well,yes of course it is, but what am I to make of a sweetness and light romantic fantasy in which a long-established marriage goes belly up, driving the husband to attempt suicide, winding up hospitalized with a nervous breakdown? These darker elements are handled with an honesty and directness that never overwhelm the joy of the film, and don't come off as cheap attempts at seriousness, but actually serve to make the experience more profound and ultimately moving.
Frank Morgan's performance is flat-out brilliant, moving from comic bluster to genuine pathos. For his performance to have not been Oscar-nominated is, to me, one of the more grotesque oversights in Oscar history. A great film and a great movie, no more no less. The kind of movie that makes one look around and bemoan the current sorry state of cinematic affairs.

1 comment:

Michael said...

We agree on something!! I love this movie, but none of my friends do. Some complain that it's stagy (which it is, and for me that just adds to the movie's charm) and some complain that Stewart is a rat bastard for torturing Sullavan so long. I could answer that if he's a bastard, she's a bitch and they deserve each other. But I especially love Frank Morgan here; he never falls back on his standard dithery blustering and truly does create a character you know and care for. Frankly, his final scene is more of a tearjerker for me than the last scene between Stewart and Sullavan. The first time I saw this was in a thater, which may have helped make it so special. I'm glad you liked it.