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Ninotchka

USA 1939
produced by
Ernst Lubitsch (executive) for MGM
directed by Ernst Lubitsch
starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach, Bela Lugosi, Gregory Gaye, Rolfe Sedan, Edwin Maxwell, Richard Carle
screenplay by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch, based on the story by walter Lengyel, music by Werner R.Heymann

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Comrades Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljakoff (Felix Bressart) and Kopalski (Alexander Granach) are sent to Paris by the Russian gouvernment to sell the confiscated jewels of Countess Swana (Ina Claire). The Countess, who lives in exile in France though, learns about this and sends her lover, Count Léon (Melvyn Douglas), to retrieve her jewels any which way. Iranoff, Buljakoff and Kopalski in the meantime have taken a liking to the capitalist lifestyle in France and are thus in no hurry to sell the jewels, they rather try to postpone any kind of sale interminally - so much so that the Russian gouvernment sends a special envoy after them, Ninotchka (Greta Garbo). At first, she's full of disdain towards the capitalist lifestyle, and against Léon in particular, whom he meets without at first knowing his agenda. But she soon softens up to both the lifestyle and the Count, and eventually they become a couple - but after having spent a night with him, the jewels she has since retrieved from Iranoff, Buljakoff and Kopalski are gone, as Countess Swana had them stolen. She promises to return them though, under the condition that Ninotchka leaves Paris - and especially Léon - for good. Out of patriotism, Ninotchka gives in to the Countess's demands, even if it breaks her heart.

Back in Russia, Ninotchka can't come to terms with the communist lifestyle anymore, nor does the lack of news from Léon (his letters are either confiscated or heavily censored) make her any happier, so she grabs the next best assignment to get out of the country again - again to comrades Iranoff, Buljakoff and Kopalski, who are now in Turkey, back on track. In Turkey though, she is reunited with Léon, who convinces her to never return to Russia.

 

Light-footed and charming romantic comedy from a time before romantic comedies were exclusively made for women and were still allowed to touch political subjects (if in a rather shallow way). An elegant direction (but would you expect anything else from Ernst Lubitsch), great performances by all of the involved and a genuinely funny script make this one a totally entertaining movie, even 70 years after its original release.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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