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Monday, December 20, 2010

Ninotchka (released in 1939) - A comedy starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas

This is the penultimate movie starring Greta Garbo and is an all out comedy which is a first for the actress, who was always revered for her tear jerkers. This movie made by MGM is directed by Ernst Lubitsch and also stars Melvyn Douglas opposite Garbo. This movie portrays the communist Russia to be a drab place compared to a Parisian Joie de vivre. It is one of the movies which makes veiled criticism about Joseph's Stalin's autocratic rule.
Three Russian agents, Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski are deputed to sell the confiscated jewels of Countess Swana to raise money for the party. They reach Paris and stay in a posh hotel where they are overheard by one of the waiters Alexis Rakonin, an Impoverished Russian Count. He alerts Swana who is residing in Paris and her lover Count Leon d'Algout promises her the return of her jewels. Count Leon befriends the three men and show them the sights and signs of Paris which makes them wonder at their drab life style. Meanwhile Swana obtains an injunction preventing the sale of the jewels in Paris. The higher ups in the Soviet Union are furious by the turn of events and send their super spy "Envoy Extraordinary" Nina "Ninotchka" Ivanovna Yakushova to bring the three men home and facilitate the sale of the jewels. Ninotchka is a stern woman who thinks of Russia and her duty. After chastising her comrades, she also tours Paris soaking in the architectural wonders. She meets Leon who tries to flirt with her and gets a royal ignore. For Ninotchka he is an example of western decadence and soon learns his identity. Leon also comes to know about her and is intrigued by her persona.

Leon follows her to a cafe and jokes with Ninotchka to get to know her better. Even though his jokes fall flat, he manages to melt her heart. Soon both enjoy each others company and Ninotchka becomes a changed woman. She dresses and enjoys the opulence of the city and soon falls in love with the count.
A much drunk Leon and Ninotchka return to the hotel and she tries the jewels on Leon before falling asleep. Next day she gets a call from Swana that she had the jewels stolen from her room by Rakonin and names her price for their retrieval – Leon. Ninotchka agrees and goes back home. Leon pursues her and meets her when she reaches Istanbul on her next assignment. He persuades her not to leave and they live happily ever after.
This movie was banned in the Soviet Union for criticizing Stalin and Communism. But it still went on to be one of the top grosser of the year. It also snagged four Academy Award nominations including the one for Garbo, for the best actress.
In 1990, Ninotchka was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It was also included on two American Film Institute lists and was also included on Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Movies.

Ninotchka (released in 1939) - A comedy starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas

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