Surrealist Daydreams

Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be, out Tuesday in a spiffy new DVD/Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, is comedy on a knife's edge,  choosing at several moments to forgo its farcical set-ups in favor of the look and tone of a wartime thriller. Imagine a screwball Carole Lombard being dropped into Clouzot’s Le Corbeau, and you begin to get a sense of how Lubitsch is deploying his talent to startling effect. It has all of the exquisite detail and knowing sensuality of Lubitsch's earlier comedies, but it’s less interested in tickling the funny bone than in alternately caressing and grabbing your throat—it juggles slapstick and tragedy like a sublime, Surrealist daydream. My review of this essential disc is up at Cinespect.


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