Not Very Nice

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I Don’t Want to Be a Man

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 10, 2015

A very energetic film, with handsome settings, marvelous distribution and direction of extras, very confident detailing of the high life. Unfortunately, it is also something of a moral sinkhole. The Victor/Victoria gender bent stuff stands out the most, and might/must have raised eyebrows here, just before the dawn of Weimar Germany. (And actually, let’s pause to note and honour the fact that this effervescent thing came out a month before the Great War’s end. It’s simultaneously intended as a small distraction from terrible reality, and an indirect reflection of that dire reality.) More to the point, this middle-aged guy is targeting an adolescent. At the end he hits that target, attains his objective, and the film seems happy about it. I see that Oswalda was twenty-two when they made this. Her character is quite a bit younger than that.

Even the earliest of director Ernst Lubitsch’s films demonstrate what all the noise is about. (The introduction to Peter Bogdanovich’s 1998 book, Who the Devil Made It, provides a thorough and very affectionate summary of the case on his behalf. PB thinks him to be film’s greatest director, ever.) His constantly cocked eyebrow on the subject of sex has to be accounted for. He’s hard to resist, even if you very much want to resist what he’s saying. That said, he’s so uniquely joyful, and funny. The bit when the scolding governess discovers the joys of tobacco, for instance, is so effortless, and such a scream.