Sunday, February 7, 2016

Film Notes: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

I grew up with the films of Frank Capra. When I was a child I did as many children did, I believed the optimism, I believed in the Capricorn of Frank Capra's films. As an adult I still enjoy Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). I greatly admire the darknesses in American life Capra explored. I admire the dark parallels Capra draws between dictatorships elsewhere, Hitler in particular, and capitalist dictators in the US. I admire Capra's exploration of just how easy it was to manipulate the masses via what we today call the corporate media. I admire Capra's montages, montages that are worthy of the great Eisenstein. I admire Capra's strong leading women even if, by film's fantasy end they end up in love with the Hero and generally married. I find the parallels Capra draws between Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and, Mr. Smith's hero, Jefferson Smith interesting, parallels which probably tell us something about Capra ideologically. As an adult, however, I realise that Capra pulls his punches at the end of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington giving us one of the unlikeliest and even one of silliest fantasy endings in celluloid history. Still, sometimes I wish real life was as simple as the endings of Capra films. It would be nice to think that right and justice do sometimes triumph over graft and injustice. Lost causes, however, just don't triumph in real life.

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