Saturday, August 13, 2011
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The fluffy but pleasant story benefits greatly from the “Lubitsch touch”, since director Ernst Lubitsch had the knack of giving significance to little things without taking them too seriously. Presenting his characters honestly yet sympathetically, he makes the somewhat contrived situation seem believable and worth caring about. Its appeal comes across as almost effortless, but you only have to compare it with the less effective 1998 remake You’ve Got Mail to see how important the right touch is with this kind of story.
At its surface, one might assume The Shop Around the Corner to simply be the story of two lovers, Klara Novak (Sullavan) and Alfred Kralik (Stewart), who love each other without knowing it. However, Lubitsch's film runs much deeper than that. It's the story of Matuschek and Compan, and the various human relationships that make the store such a close-knit family. When storeowner Matuschek begins to suspect his oldest employee of having an affair with his wife, we witness the breakdown of two families, both at home and at work. Ernst Lubitsch really does himself proud with this film; the charm of the simple story is that it is so real and relatable.
It all fits together very well, with a great cast and a nice blend of wit and sentiment. The film moves at just the right pace and makes you a part of the characters' world. It makes for a very enjoyable movie that holds up very well even after several viewings and for its age.