Monday, May 17, 2010
There's a moment in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters that gets me everytime. Allen's character Mickey, depressed, disillusioned and suicidal, stumbles into a movie theater and he finds redemption in the form of a film. I think it's probably a moment that all true film lovers can relate to and its one of the great moments in Allen's filmography. It's also a glorious tribute to the film that saved Allen's character, the wonderfully chaotic and wacky Duck Soup from director Leo McCary.
Watching Duck Soup today it is hard to believe that it wasn't a triumph upon its initial release, and yet it was probably the least well received of all of the original Marx Brothers classics. It's a masterpiece though, a savagely funny piece of modern-art that is filled with more anarchy and experimentation than most avante-garde films you care to name. McCarey's film is Punk Rock more than forty years before that phrase was coined.
What can I say about Duck Soup? If you have seen it then you know what I am talking about and if you haven't please stop reading, call in sick to work or school, and get busy. It's Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo on full-throttle...our boys already in fifth-gear out of the gate and they are still racing as this just over an hour laugh-a-thon crashes to a close.
The fact that Duck Soup was made during a particularly turbulent period for The Marx Brothers, with personal, financial and legal woes plaguing them, with their second choice for director on board (the wonderful McCarey came on board after Lubitsch passed) makes it all the more amazing. Duck Soup really puts that old cliche of laughter as the best medicine to full use, not just for the audience but I suspect for the Marx Brothers themselves.
Gloriously goofy but incredibly satiric and smart, Duck Soup is one of the great cinematic comedies and a defining moment for American film. Copied countless times, Duck Soup remains as original as ever and it is still as flat out funny as any film imaginable. It is available as part of the Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection, a set that also contains The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers.