Ninotchka hit the theaters shortly before the start of World War II. The Soviet Union was still relatively young, having finished a civil war only two decades before. Ninotchka was one of the few films that depicted the newly formed idealistic communist society as a rather glum, gray, stern place to live. But the portrayal is done in a kind and gentle teasing manner, almost as an inside joke between friends. One of the key points of the film is how, with simple pleasures, the Soviet agents are seduced into decadent folly. Ninotchka is a romance comedy. As with so many romantic comedies having the man and the woman come from not only different backgrounds but also different ideologies makes for merriment as the two seek to understand each other. In this case, we have the no-nonsense party member and the warm-hearted aristocrat. The audience laughs at human failings and being caught committing a sin. The rude arbitrariness of whether it is considered a passable sin or a life-forfeiting error makes for some rather enjoyable bits of dark humor. But all of this dark humor and glum Soviet stereotypes were treated with light-hearted humor, almost innocent in its optimism and hope for a struggling country finding its footing. Ninotchka was released two months after the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. It would be another two years before Germany would invade the Soviet Union. During the war years that immediately followed, the Soviets were our allies and the portrayal of them on the big screen was still mostly positive. It wouldn’t be until after WWII, when the fear of communism would be used as a political tool that the Red Scare would leave an ugly scar on Hollywood. Ninotchka then has a unique place in cinematic history. It’s a light and fluffy film that carries none of the foreboding and direness which later films would inherently imply by the weight of history.
The Home of the Creative Mind
Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Theda Bara quickly received the name The Vamp as she was often listed as The Vampire in the credits for A Fool There Was. In an age when Victorian dress was giving way to the era of the slim-girl-look known as the Flappers, Theda Bara’s natural curves and mane of long black hair stood out. Her eyes were offset with heavy kohl makeup, her body with exotic clothing, and she was adorned with mysterious jewelry filled with symbolism. It’s no wonder she’s often seen as the prototype for the Goth look. Studios were new to publicity campaigns. Theda’s background and personality were fabricated to the extent that both the studio and the reporters couldn’t keep them straight. She was at times the daughter of a mistress of politicians, the descendant of pharaohs, or priestess to a forgotten cult. The spew of fabrication added only more fuel to the publicity fire, and soon, in a time when many silent actors didn’t even receive credit, Theda Bara became a household name. Her roles showed her as a strong-willed female using her sex as a weapon, a tool, to get what she wanted. Keep in mind, this is during the suffragette movement. Women still didn’t have the right to vote, and men usually dictated their standing in society. Most of society viewed Bara’s representation of the strong female as laden with scandal and perversity. Bara’s interviews showed her as a strong feminist. But since the characters she portrayed on screen were seen as evil, it didn’t take detractors long to imply that feminism was also evil. Bara made over forty films, and sadly the master prints to all of these were lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. What few films that remain are the result of copies that were in outside circulation or forgotten storage. Thankfully, A Fool There Was is one of four of her films known to still exist. It’s story of a woman unashamedly manipulating men for her own gain. It’s also a story of the hypocrisy society allows, saying that a man’s poor decisions are the fault of a woman.