Ideology I

film 3 of 4

A Foreign Affair

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 9, 2015

A fascinating reversal, or at least extension of two documents from Wilder’s past, most obviously in a western Ninotchka going east, undergoing a partial (no facile flagwaving here either) ideological thawing as romance and friendship and other such ambiguous chicaneries add some grades between the black and the white, here an intriguing difference is that the man in question isn’t nearly as nice and charming, and the implications are a little bit more disturbing–there is compassionate and convincing portrayal of what is basically moral turpitude, and in giving Lund and Mitchell speeches about how easily it can arise what with the surrounding horrors that prevail, the film feels like the first step onto a dangerous path to jaded glories like The Apartment, these subject matters are of course most appropriate, but lesser lights and defenseless viewers have since this time stopped taking note of the at least partly questioning tone, have passed from observing the way some things are to thinking it’s the way things should be; the other echo is more powerful, and is keyed by the shadow of the plane flying left to right over bombed out Berlin, exactly the opposite of Hitler’s plane making the sign of the cross over Nuremberg, these Americans, full of constituents’ concerns, or with “killer” featured prominently on their jeeps, are thus consciously compared to that other false saviour, so that this emerges as a prophecy of Dr. Strangelove kind of messages about the war against fascism being lost, because the fascists took over in the US; there’s also interesting utilization of documentary techniques when Col. or whatever Mitchell drives the congressfolk through the actual locations, telling them, and us, what has just happened and what it means, and making us feel it by actually being there (cf. The Men); neat how Dietrich had such a long career using that crazy voice, she’s an interesting glamour-puss foil to Arthur, who has the same bite and charm enhanced by the interesting passing of 10 years from when we last heard much of her; “my mother used to wear women’s clothes”