Monday 26 November 2012
Last month I said "I think the only Capra film I haven't seen that I may still consider watching is Lost Horizon, which I have heard was a colossal bomb." Mission accomplished.
275. Lost Horizon (1937)
This thing has a 7.7 rating on IMDB, which only goes to show that the voters at IMDB hate movies. I can sum up its three acts thusly:
Act I: some Englishmen are kidnapped to an apparent Utopia for mysterious reasons. There's war, a plane hijacking, desert refueling, a crash landing.... And that's in just the first 45 minutes! Not that Act I doesn't have its moments, but they are really really... drawn... out. I'm sure the pacing was intentional to emphasize the mystery.
Act II: the "mysterious reason" turns out to be a forced romance between our hero and a clever, beautiful woman in an ageless land with no strife. Beautiful women? Near eternal life? Horror of horrors! Act II makes the argument that the struggle of day-to-day living in the hustle and bustle of modern society is what kills us. Capra gives us elaborate sets and brief character pieces of people learning to take joy in everyday activities like sheep-shearing and plumbing in the hopes that we won't take the time to question whether anyone ever died before the Industrial Revolution.
Act III: the people who hate the idea of living forever, all clumsily painted as monsters or crackpots in the first two acts, drag our hero out of paradise. What suspense! If only this weren't a Capra film, where we already know that our hero will be rewarded for his selfless acts. Final dialogue: "Here's my hope that we all find our Shangri-La." I found mine when the screen finally said "The End."
Here ends my investigations of the films of Frank Capra. I've seen 4 Capra films this year, the most of any director to this point. Even the action movie Dirigible, with its Fay Wray love triangle that has you rooting for the other guy to steal the woman from the hero, contained too much artificial sweetener for my taste.
I'm sure by now that I've seen the best that Mr. Capra has to offer in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Every movie he made -- even screwball comedies like Arsenic and Old Lace -- seems to be some variation on the theme which I will glibly summarize as "cynicism defeated by love." I'm sure that there is a wide audience for Capra's kind of movie, but I'm not in it. Frank Capra simply doesn't have enough love to overcome my cynicism.