Film Review: Glückskinder

Glückskinder

Little known outside Germany, Paul Martin’s Glückskinder gets a restoration. The 1936 film, loosely based on Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, owes much to Hollywood’s studio era productions.

Tricked into covering the courthouse coverage for newspaper he hopes to write poetry for, Gil Taylor hopes to net a decent story. When Ann Garden is brought before the judge, Gil steps in to help, little realising the outcome of his act of kindness…

Glückskinder, or its English title Lucky Kids, very much emulates Hollywood films of the same period. It is screwball comedy cum musical, with its style dialogue exchanges borrowed from American films. Glückskinder is not quite as amusing as the films that it apes, although it has a certain charm to it.

The characters in Glückskinder function appropriately. There are some slapstick supporting characters, but the film works best in its exchanges between Gil and Ann. The musical number is fun, although a little out of place with the lack of other songs.

The fact that the film is set in America is a little strange. There is no need for the New York setting, other than that Glückskinder is emulating American films. It is interesting that the film has an almost pro-American stance given the time it was produced and the pressure to adhere to propaganda. However, it is understandable as a product of escapism. There is also one swipe at American culture late on in the film.

The restoration of Glückskinder is good; any flaws in the filming and editing seem to be part of the original. The film offers an entertaining glance into the escapist cinema of Nazi Germany.

Glückskinder was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: Forbidden

Frank Capra’s 1932 movie Forbidden is a tale of the most unwavering devotion. Although it is not his finest film, Forbidden is a decent melodrama boasting a fine performance by Barbara Stanwyck.

Bored with her life, librarian Lulu Smith decides to holiday on a cruise to Cuba. One night she meets Bob, and the pair form a mutual attraction. Bob is married, however, and divorce is out of the question…

Forbidden‘s extra-marital affair narrative was deemed quite offensive by some viewers on its release, but seems pretty tame now. Nevertheless, the themes of the film are as timeless as ever. Lulu’s devotion to Bob is unyielding; she is willing to sacrifice everything for the man she loves and wishes to protect.

Neither Lulu nor Bob are one-dimensional characters. It is easy to sympathise with them both, just as it is easy to be critical of their actions. While Lulu’s attraction to Bob is clear to see, the lengths she will go to in order to protect him are extreme, to say the least. It is only in these times that she is less relatable for viewers. Bob, meanwhile, is caught in a tricky position; not wanting to hurt his wife or career, but also not willing to give up Lulu. Although his struggle is apparent numerous times throughout the film, this does not negate his selfish motives.

Forbidden is mostly a serious affair, but it does have its lighter moments. Lulu’s exchange with the bank tender at the beginning and the debacle of Lulu dining alone on the cruise, as well as her banter with Holland, are hallmarks of more familiar Capra territory. The general tone of the movie is darker than most films more readily associated with the director.

Barbara Stanwyck gives a powerful performance as Lulu. It is a tragic role, and Stanwyck effectively conveys the encompassing range of emotions. Adolphe Menjou appears suitably cast as Bob, depicting the character’s charm, as well as his ambition. As Holland, Ralph Bellamy brings both lightness and a sense of menace to proceedings.

Capra and cinematographer Joseph Walker effectively contrast the holiday sequence with later scenes in the film. The glitz and glamour of the casino compares to the quiet of Lulu’s small apartment, while the romantic and almost silhouette-like horse ride by the sea is a strikingly disparate from the later political rally – truly a distinction between the private and the public.

Despite its ageless themes, Forbidden is very much a product of the early 1930s. It is the type of drama that appears much less frequent in contemporary cinema. As such, the film is as intriguing as a product of its time as it is as a film in its own right.

Forbidden was shown at the British Film Institute, as part of the Rediscovering Frank Capra season.