Tuesday, November 16, 2010

#194 Duck Soup (1933)


Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, Louis Calhern

One of the Marx brothers most famous films, but certainly not their most successful at the time of its release, Duck Soup is a plotless, confusing hour of silliness-- brilliant! Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the new leader of Freedonia-- a country financially supported soley by his sometimes love-interest, Mrs. Teasdale. However, the leader of Sylvania (played by Calhern), wants to win Mrs. Teasdale affections and eventually goes to war with Freedonia for well, no particular reason.

The truth of the matter is, the plot of this movie is completely pointless and incidental. Though often called one of the greatest political and war satires ever, I mostly just see a brand of comedy that is unparalleled. After this film tanked in box offices, the brothers left Paramount and began making movies with MGM that were more musical and certainly more structured.

If nothing else demonstrates the randomness of Duck Soup, then perhaps Groucho Marx's explanation of the title will: "Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you'll duck soup the rest of your life."

I came into this movie expecting something silent and extremely unapproachable, and I was so SO pleasantly surprised. Not only is this film easy to watch, but it is also so goofy that it is impossible not to love it. The Marx Brothers' camera-aware one-liners are sometimes poorly delivered, and the screen presences are extremely unorganized/unplanned-- making the film feel like a bad stage-show, and absolutely amazing for that reason. In all of the places where we expect modern cinema to do the opposite, the Marx Brothers get away with just about everything. SO love this film, and I am adding it to my list of "must watch again"s.

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