Friday, November 18, 2011

christmas carol | movie echoes

When we staged It's A Wonderful Life a few seasons ago, it dawned on me how much that quintessential Christmas story had in common with the Charles Dickens' even more essential Christmas story (onstage this December at Pacific Theatre). A man reaches a point where the boy within him has worn away to nearly nothing, where the Present is sour and hard and everything's about money and bankers, nothing's about dreams or romance or the spirit within him going forth to travel far and wide. And so that man must be haunted by an unearthly visitor, who shows him shadows, and offers a choice between the things that are, and the things that might be.

This morning I thought of another seasonal story to round out the trilogy. Different season, same Spirit.

Looking through Kinn & Piazza's "The Greatest Movies Ever: The Ultimate Ranked List of The 1001 Best Films Of All Time," I came upon this deft summary of what it is that makes Groundhog Day not only one of my personal favourites (as soon as the credits rolled, I said to my wife, "I wish I'd written that") but - surprisingly enough - the choice of several critics and film-makers who nominated the film for inclusion in the Museum Of Modern Art's series "The Hidden God." Harold Ramis alongside Robert Bresson, Carl Theodor Dreyer and Andrei Tarkovsky!


It's A Wonderful Life meets No Exit in this classic romantic comedy with a spiritual allegory at its heart. Bill Murray is a self-important cynic, a somewhat lovable, sad emotional isolate who doesn't miss a comic beat. We hate his misanthropy. We don't want this eotistical cad to win the bright and optimistic girl. But he does - and he makes it all surprisingly thoughtful and weighty.

"I'm a god. I'm not the God... I don't think."
"You're not a god. You can take my word for it; this is twelve years of Catholic school talking."

They're not afraid to take this brilliantly entertaining and hilarious comedy down into the abyss by staging a succession of surprisingly unsettling suicide atempts. But he climbs back up. He learns. Boy eventually gets girl by gaining himself.

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