13
Sep 04

FT Top 100 Films

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FT Top 100 Films
32: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Anthony Easton says:

Why the fuck is this the Christmas movie of choice. I mean it has the mawkishness, the sacrifice to the altar of family, the mealy mouthed redemption, and the idea that everyone can make a difference and it isn’t really marred with the racism (White Christmas), overacting (Christmas Carol), insulin shock sweetness (Miracle on 34th Street) or self reflexive irony and strangeness (anything stop motion) of other movies of this ilk – but it does hinge on a suicide, not something that is discussed very much in uplifting family fare.

Think of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, then or other nonsense that Capra pushed down our collective throats. He seems to believe that being pure of heart and actually believing with all the earnestness you can muster will change everything – he gives the naive hope. Which is all one wants for Christmas, I guess.

Peter Baran says

I almost feel heretical in saying I like It’s A Wonderful Life, the flip-flop concensus on it being much what Anthony says above. But I like its half-arsedness. It is trying to be feelgood, but consider the situation. Man tries to commit suicide, so God sends a really rubbish trainee angel down to show him what would happen if he had never existed. To basically lie to him, to stop him committing a mortal sin (lie – because the laws of causality are nowhere near as cut and dried as Clarence suggests). Why is this? It is clear that in the world that Capra is presenting everyone is going to hell. Everyone is a sinner and the good guys are losing hand over fist in the enternal game. Why is such a lousy angel sent? The suggestion is almost that you have to almost incapable to even be good. Operating in the modern world is akin to commiting a sin from the outset. If you look at the rows upon rows of corrupt people in Mr Smith Goes To Washington, this jaundiced view of the world is upheld. It’s A Wonderful Life is a tremendously cynical, film which cleverly uses its feelgood trappings to disguise a seething evisceration of capitalism. When better to see that but Christmas.

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