Craft II

film 2 of 3

The Ghost Goes West

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

René Clair directs The Ghost Goes West with his customary charm, & it’s designed by the magisterial Vincent Korda to boot! Lots to like here, both dramatically/directorially, & in the beautiful manufacture of the thing;

We worry about ethnic & racial stereotypes, as well we should, but something instructive is going on here, & I learned a lot from it: in this little concoction a bunch of clichéd Scots butt up against & are balanced by another bunch of clichéd Americans, w’ the result that pawky shortbread Romance meets guileless philistine capitalism on equal & affectionate terms, & everyone comes out ahead; this does not seem to me to be at all offensive, & as a Scot who inadvertently married into a family of blithe American capitalists & lived to tell the tale, I am absolutely qualified to make that judgment;

Disadvantaged minorities have suffered enormously at the hands of presumptuous privilege, which so often adds slurring insults to systematic/infrastructural inequality—again, it is right to be outraged in the face of all of this, but I’m wondering if we can’t & shouldn’t loosen on this, just a little bit;

Are burlesque ethnic generalities always rooted in & equal to malicious bigotry? I’m thinking of P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, whose chinless idiocy is both hilarious hyperbole, & a neatly concise précis of England’s long historic march, up to that point; this notion, as well as this film’s very neat resolution (the irreplaceable Eugene Palette’s competitor belonging to the cursed clan of the prologue) remind us that symmetry can still be admired & validated, especially when achieved as here, not with contrivance or cruelty, but with plain old wit & craft & affection …