Sunday, April 1, 2007

Go Jimmy

One reason we signed up for Netflix was to be able to watch the classics everyone is raving about, Hitchcock, John Ford, and so forth. Well I've been terribly disappointed. I've watched several of the classics, and they're like looking the wares at a flea market.
Last night we watched The Shop Around the Corner. This was supposed to be one of Jimmy Stewart's best films. And he is very good in it, but overall it's a stale Hungarian confection. There was probably a good reason for setting the story in Budapest. Someone lovingly wrote "mens room" in Hungarian in the right places, but it had "Hollywood" written just below the surface. The film came out in 1940. Hungary was allied with the Nazis by this time and was about to undergo fifty years of subjugation. There is no hint of this in the movie. Yet the movie takes place in a shop that sells suitcases. The subtle message is "get out now."
The plot of the movie is simplistic. "You've Got Mail" was based on it. Jimmy Stewart has a pen pal he falls in love with. She comes to work at the shop and they can't stand each other. Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz, is the shops money grubbing owner who turns out to have a heart of gold.
The camera work is modernistic. It jumps around the shop mostly following Jimmy Stewart. The heroine's personality is unattractive until she realizes it is her fate to wed the hero.
I should give the movie some slack, it's 67 years old. But Jane Austen doesn't need any slack, or Vincent or Michelangelo. Why do films hold up so poorly? Will the movies of our day bear watching in 50 years?

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