670 To Be or Not to Be

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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domino harvey
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Re: To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

#51 Post by domino harvey » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:45 pm

I mentioned in the ballot thread that this has one of my favorite Lubitsch openings, but it is also a toss up between this and Ninotchka for my favorite Lubitsch ending (and if Lubitsch had been allowed to keep the titular ending to Heaven Can Wait, it would no doubt factor into the rankings as well)-- no one could end a movie on a bigger laugh or a funnier note than Lubitsch (when he wanted, at least-- not all of his endings land at the same level)

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Pinkus' Shoe Palace (Ernst Lubitsch, 1916)

#52 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jun 12, 2017 7:05 am


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Re: Pinkus' Shoe Palace (Ernst Lubitsch, 1916)

#53 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jun 15, 2017 4:06 pm

As far as I can see, Schuhpalast Pinkus is the earliest surviving film of Lubitsch as a director (correct me if I'm wrong, because I'd LOVE to be wrong in this case) and the eighth one he made in this function, according to imdb. So it's not surprising that this is already a very convincing film, even though it is not yet as sophisticated as the outstanding films of his Berlin period he made in the years 1918/19.

But what we have here is a rather typical film for early Lubitsch, showing off his decidedly 'Jewish' persona in a way that if the film had been made twenty years later would have caused it to be banned nowadays for its seemingly antisemite clichés. Because Sally Pinkus is a lazy, sleepy boy who fails at school, and not just because he seems to be rather lecherously interested in any young girl who happens to come along his way... Later in the film, he also never seems to take any of his work seriously. However, and that's Lubitsch's great achievement, he manages to make his character quite endearing because of his clever and irreverent ways in which he manages to go from rags to riches.

There's also occasionally some really fine erotic/fetishistic innuendo, most of all when Sally Pinkus in one scene tickles a female customer's foot in a both ironical and at the same time sexual manner; he also 'reduces' the customer's shoe size to appeal to her vanity. And when he later plays a trick on his amorous boss by reminding him of his wife when he courts a customer lady, there is a sense of mischievousness which is rather typical for the film in general.

All in all, the film is quite 'cold' in the way it exposes the machinations of Pinkus to rise socially so that in the end he can open his own 'Shoe Palace' and be celebrated by society, all culminating in another somewhat fetishistic sequence, namely the "Stiefelschau" (boot display). And it's in these satirical, almost cynical moments where the film really shows Lubitsch's greatness.

Pinkus also seems to be somewhat related to an earlier film starring Lubitsch, namely Der Stolz der Firma (Carl Wilhelm, 1914), a film which I somewhat regard as the 'mother of all department store films'. There are some plot parallels, and probably it was this earlier film which led Lubitsch to devise his somewhat impish screen personality of the Sally/Meyer roles of later films. Here again he plays the 'dirty jew' who -according to one intertitle - only occasionally washes his hands but nevertheless manages to rise socially. The film ends with a brilliant 'before and after' shot of the 'two' Lubitsches of the film. Available on youtube here. The backchannels have it with English subs in addition. Do check this out if you can. Because it's the earlier film, it's even more seminal watching than Pinkus if you want to understand where Lubitsch came from, and I also think it's the (even) funnier film.

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Re: Pinkus' Shoe Palace (Ernst Lubitsch, 1916)

#54 Post by Drucker » Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:26 pm

Great post Tommaso. I don't have much more to add, but seem to share your general sentiment that the film wasn't laugh out loud funny, but was brimming with personality. There are some great moments, like in the earliest scenes in the school, but as the story continues, the best parts of the film are really just Lubitsch winking at the camera. A nice film, but certainly not as good as I Don't Want to Be a Man or the fabulous Puppet a few short years later.

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