To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. To Be or Not to Be is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production right before the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled.
“No film about Hitler and the war was as direct in its approach to the subject at the time as To Be or Not To Be. Nor was any film about Hitler and the war as funny. Part of this is the genius of its director, Ernst Lubitsch, who simply couldn’t be prevented from making things funny. Was the popular sentiment against Nazism ever furnished with a more compelling punchline than “heil myself!”, which the Führer says flatly after a battery of salutations come his way?” FANDOR
“Now, with the benefit of time’s remedial passing and decades worth of hindsight, Ernst Lubitsch’s classic stands as an entertaining, surprisingly audacious, and powerfully poignant comic gem. One of the great filmmaker’s final features (he would pass away just five years later), it is today most shocking not so much for the comedy itself, but rather the abrupt yet effortless shifts in tone, from screwball hysterics to genuinely austere observations.” MUBI
“Lubitsch’s masterful wartime satire has had many imitators, including Mel Brooks’s 1983 remake and Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but none matches the original’s audacity and effortless blend of comedy and drama.” BROOKLYN
- 4/9 | 8:00PM