Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Duck Soup; comedy, USA, 1933; D: Leo McCarey, S: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres
In a country called Freedonia the ruler is replaced due to his bad results. The new ruler is the popular and comical Rufus T. Firefly. The neighboring country, Sylvania, ruled by Trentino, is their arch rival and plans to declare war against Freedonia. Trentino hires some Chicolino to spy on Firefly, but he eventually joins him. After Firefly and Trentino start a public argument, the two states declare war on each other. Chicolino and Pinky defend Firefly's house that is surrounded. A few soldiers storm it, among them also Trentino who is captured and declares capitulation, making them heroes.
Excellent hilarious comedy classic "Duck Soup" is situated somewhere between genius and madness - the Marx brothers don't care if they break absolutely every norm and pull all possible measures against the establishment just as long as they make their audience laugh. This howlingly funny comedy is crammed with jokes that don't "fit" into the story since their basis is just spontaneous, unleashed fun. One could complain towards the boring 5 minute opening that contains unnecessary musical scenes and the short running time (only 65 minutes), but when the result is so much fun, it is hard not to enjoy it: the viewers don't even finish laughing at the first joke and the Marx brothers are already beginning with the second and the third.
The insane dialogues are sparkling ("Have we seen each other before?" - "I'm not sure if I see you right now!" or "The workers demand a shorter working time!" - "Good, we will cut their lunch break") but the director McCarey also manages with an easy hand to insert a subtle little anti-war subtext in the film by spoofing patriotism, militarism and short-tempered rulers: among the hilarious things is also the finale in which grenades are flying through the window of the house, so Groucho just pulls down the curtain or the scene where Harpo is trapped in a room full of dynamite on fire and thus hits the door to get out but everyone thinks that the enemy army is trying to storm in so they block the door even more. Bravo, only a few movies manage to top this film with their humor. Also, the slightly overhyped, but legendary sequence where Harpo pretends to be Groucho's reflection in a non-existing mirror by mimicking all his moves was declared "the best thing the Marx brothers ever did" by some critics.