Sunday, December 24, 2006

"People who like to smoke candy and listen to cigarettes will love it."

Great article by Elbert Ventura in Slate about the other, better Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie: Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner.

See also this appreciation by Jim Henley, where he notes that Shop Around the Corner is one of the few movies that really embraces and understands the commercial nature of the Christmas holiday (take that, Charlie Brown Christmas!):

The glorious thing about Shop is that its focus is so relentlessly commercial. Its Christmas is the season of shopping; its characters’ chief holiday concern is whether they’ll make plan. Once Alfred knows that Klara is his dream girl, his concern turns immediately to whether she’ll be getting him the wallet he wants, or some less suitable gift he knows, by way of the grapevine, she’s thinking of getting her mystery sweetheart. (She doesn’t quite know yet that Alfred is him.) When the store owner has his heart attack, everyone worries about his health, and also how it will affect sales.

I had fourteen of those Christmases during my days in retail management, and the way the movie gets that life right is a special thrill. There’s a special pride in watching the stack of something you had the foresight to order heavy dwindle because it is, indeed, the thing that people want, and a special delight too - you see the money piling up, and you see people happy because you successfully guessed what would make them happy. Closing up a store on Christmas Eve after a successful season feels like ringing down the curtain on a well-reviewed show.

With so many movies and TV specials that are about what Christmas should be -- less commercial, less shopping-oriented, less about gifts and money -- it's nice to see Lubitsch and Samson Raphaelson making a feel-good movie about what Christmas really is, and showing the pride and joy the characters feel in having a commercially-successful Christmas sale.

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