To Be or Not to Be

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Year Released: 1942
Rating: 2.5

I don't think Lubitsch's grand cinematic "touch" was working too hard on this timely World War II/Hitler spook - his two leads (Jack Benny and Carol Lombard), despite being charismatic performers, are one-dimensional improv acts, ready and graceful, but without deep personalities: they're like stand-up comedians that just happen to stumble upon a movie. To Be starts of with a jolt (Hitler outside a bakery), but winds down after that, presenting another three-way love triangle between husband and wife who love each other but wife still wants another man (Robert Stack, stolid and young) - husband reacts the way husband should in such a case- like a fool. Fools too, are the "obviously bad" Nazis, whom Lubitsch picks as an easy target and gives them 3rd Grade psyches - somehow, in real life, idiotic rarely comes up as an adjective to describe the unspeakable movement. I kept waiting for the film to turn into something akin to Mel Brooks' "Springtime for Hitler," but it stays too grounded for that. While I did think the film picks up pace and energy for its third act, I couldn't simply ignore the first two.