The Lookout in The Shop Around the Corner

In this Friday movie review, I was going to talk about the Lookout.
I watched The Lookout earlier this week, and was quite impressed by the clever but subtle camera work, and especially the way that veteran writer Scott Frank handled the main characters' disabilities, not as gimmicks on which to run a movie, but as honest ways of not making one feel like the character has to be right all the time - as a way of making the character human.
It seems a consistent theme in even passably good movies that a character, in order to be believable and have a struggle, in fact, in order to be human and not be a bad guy, must be either misunderstood (a case of romanticism which became Cliche long before romanticism) or must be struggling under some pre-set limitation. We only believe the protagonist in Chris Nolan's Memento represents all of us because he has a brain injury. (and if you've watched Batman without Memento, shame on you) we believe that Neo can only be a hero if he was grown under the illusive world. We believe Han can only be a conflicted hero with a bounty on his head (hence, Jabba). But Frank avoids making the protagonists' struggle about his injury, even avoids making it completely about his past, rather, makes it about his humanity.
But I'm not going to talk about the Lookout. I want to talk about Ernest Lubitsch. I have been watching several of his movies this week, and I want to talk especially about "The Shop Around the Corner." On the cover of it, this looks like a bit of over-sweet Capra, Capra without the darkness and irony of Arsenic and Old Lace (his only really good movie). The sweet initial feeling of "The Shop Around the Corner" is furthered by Jimmy Stewart, but those who have seen other Lubitsch films, such as To Be or Not to Be will understand that Lubitsch only plays to be sweet, and The Shop Around the Corner is perhaps his lees consistently sweet film. Not only does it include a horrible scene of discovered adultery, displaying all the character devistation of that feeling, without indulging in visual viscerality, except perhaps the stomach-cramping nature of the devastation a good actor can represent, it also includes a scene of attempted suicide, and sandwiches between them a very sweet, clever seen about a rascal of an errand boy. Lubitsch swings us from one end of the emotional range to the other with all the mercy of Copolla and Tarentino, and with all their effortless strength. Furthermore, for a movie with perhaps one or two close-ups, it's incredibly emotionally powerful and communicative.
Furthermore, the main romance is mostly a cat-and-mouse game of irony and perhaps even disguised hatred which, admittedly, ends up well, but throughout contains stinging, half-witty remarks (the sort of good wit that common people come up with when trying to be movie-witty) and some scenes of genuine anger, mixed with regret and attempted consolations. It's a movie that runs the full gamut of feelings, while remaining contained in a strange shell of normal life - no other director has taken fairly normal days and occurrences at a shop and turn them into such great movie scenes. We need more movies like this. What can I say? It's like Clerks... but without the sexuality and geeky masochism. Not to say Clerks is bad, just different. Anyway, The Shop Around the Corner is as much worth watching as anything, and I do highly recommend it.

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