ninotchka v. silk stockings

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Sunday, April 16, 2006
the winner is, hands down ... Ninotchka! Silk Stockings was fine as long as nobody was talking. Ugh. I wanted to beat Fred Astaire's character with a shovel (which he would no doubt take as a sign of some repressed feminine desire, which it is, sort of. My desire for him to shut the hell up, which would no longer be repressed if someone would just hand me a shovel, a time machine, and a fiction to reality translator.) It's not that I don't like Fred Astaire -- he dances like a dream and has not incited my violent impulses until now. "Brash" is what the back of the DVD case called him. "Asshole" is more like it.

I know some of my disappointment in Silk Stockings is because I was so beguiled by the 1939 original. Ninotchka was sort of corny in parts, but it was also smart and sweet. It seemed like the characters actually had hearts and feelings (which will lead one to any number of things that do not hold up under scrutiny). Silk Stockings, on the other hand, suffers from removing all of the character building parts (like any reason at all that the S. Stockings Ninotchka would fall for that gold-plated asshat) to make room for song and dance numbers. Don't get me wrong -- I LIKE song and dance numbers! When they're good they totally progress the story as far or further than dialogue alone would. Let's just say that I did not find that to be the case in this movie. Cole Porter... this was not his best work. (although old F.A. was really pushing my irritation buttons, so maybe I'm not the most impartial reporter). What made it worse is that there would be a mention of some really sweet moment from the first movie, but it made NO SENSE in the context of the movie I was watching. (I am thinking particularly of the whole champagne/ goats milk bit, but there are many others.) It was bizarrely all talk and no show. they SAID she would fall in love with him, so she DID. Even though he was an egomaniacal asshole who wore brown shoes with a grey suit! Logic rebels!!

Although Silk Stockings (1957) comes 18 years after Ninotchka (1939), I found it to be hugely sexist in comparison to the earlier movie. (progress does not march in a straight line, unfortunately.) 1939 Ninotchka (the character) was presented as serious and very good at her work -- but not a complete robot OR a doll to be manipulated by the male lead. Ninotchka was completely believable (well, movie believable) falling for Leon, the charming social schemer. He was charming, he fell for her, and I BELIEVED IT! You could see her making the mental adjustment to go with it, even though he flew in the face of everything she believed to be correct. S. Stockings Ninotchka, on the other hand... not so much. Cyd Charisse, who dances like an angel with legs up to her eyeballs, was not helping things with her Natasha Fatale accent and ZERO motivation for falling in love with that (how many times have I said asshole already?) man. Is it just the difference of pre- and post-war entertainment? Some sort of "ladies, I'll tell you how you feel because I fought in the war" kind of thing? Is it some sort of statement about communism? Maybe I just watched it wrong.

So, my advice (if you haven't seen either) is to watch the infinitely superior Garbo version, and if you must watch Silk Stockings, make sure there is plenty of time in between viewing it and the original, and keep your finger very near the mute button.
4 comments on "ninotchka v. silk stockings"
  1. Oh, hey, I coulda told you that.

    (an illustration of the assholism is timeless principle)

  2. Shovel homicide inspired by Fred Astaire as asshole? (What an image! Just where is that shovel?) Now I am intrigued. I must see them both, and do my own comparison.

  3. I never said homicide. Just a good old fashioned shovel-beating!

    You should watch Ninotchka for sure, Silk Stockings only if you MUST (seriously, it's BAD apart from a couple of dancing scenes). The library has both.


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