Saturday, December 05, 2009

The ¡No Pasarán! Film Festival Continues

“Is everybody in this world corrupt?”

“I don’t know everybody.”
The N-P silver screen meltdown marches ever forward in something familiar to European political observers, that is to say in goose steps. We present Billy Wilder’s 1961 madcap tale of Commie Berlinalia called One, Two, Three, which also happened to star Jimmy Cagney who brilliantly shows his comic timing and skill, even as Wilder turned the pace of the film up to 11.

Oddly enough, one of the many things that points out the humorlessness of “progressive” activist to this day is the fact that some of them still campaign cheerlessly and sadly unaware of irony against “Coca-Cola Imperialism”, as if their own not drinking the stuff wasn’t enough. I wonder if they realize that the concept was just one of Wilder’s jokes.

I strongly recommend renting or downloading this film! Not only will you not know where the time went, and possibly regret it, but you’ll find strange hidden gems in it, like a Messerschmitt micro-car that keeps appearing in the background, and momentary references to Carney’s “Little Caesar” character by an untitled supporting actor playing to Cagney, and another play on it with him asking for “Rico”. Along the way, look for a Khruchevesque banging of the shoe on a table, and a chillingly accurate portrait of the shambolic ruin that was East Berlin long AFTER this film was shot.

Layering it even more is the appearance of wonderful players like Leon Askin, (born Leo Aschkenasky) who sent up the temperament of a Soviet apparachik in this film, much as he later sent up the comically greedy Nazi General Burkhalter in the television comedy series, Hogan’s Heroes. Those mere moments in his long and rich career which included politically provocative cabaret as only the Viennese could do. Immigrating to America in 1940, he enlisted in the US Army, was stationed in Britain, and upon return to New York having been unable to find his parents who were sent to a Concentration Camp, he started a theater group made up entirely of Army veterans. Like Mel Brooks who served as a combat engineer and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he seems to have understood that the most humiliating defeat an enemy can face is mockery.

What they share with Wilder, a Berliner transplanted to America himself, wasn’t just comic ability, creativity, but a keen sense of observation, matched to a functioning moral compass.

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