Lost Horizon (1937)

Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon Review

Lost Horizon is a 1937 film directed by Frank Capra and it is one of his more underappreciated and unknown works.

The story is about a plane crash where passengers find the perfect utopian society of Shangri-La in the mountains of Tibet. It is quite an intriguing storyline and rare for this period mostly thanks to politics and of course the setting. The first half on the plane, although somewhat extended, intrigues you and introduces you to the characters deftly. And the ending is great, very memorable and striking. But the biggest strength this story and the movie has is its smart approach with clever dialogue and many thought-provoking lines. It explores wonderfully the terms of utopia as well as today’s society comparing them and presenting Shangri-La in a great light.

It is filled with attention to detail, of course excellent direction from Frank Capra and the natural scenery is at times very beautiful. And thanks to great detail, Shangri-La is wonderfully thought-out and executed. Also the dialogue sequences between Chang, High Lama and the protagonist Robert Conway are the highlights because they show excellent screenplay in representing the history of Shangri-La and of course the personality clash exhibited between the two.

The character development in this movie is quite good, in some instances even great. Sondra and George are nothing to write home about, but the main character Robert Conway is beautifully developed and his different attitude towards the place and a personality that lends itself to it are superb ideas executed in a great way. High Lama and Chang also serve their purpose and are good characters. But Alexander P. Lovett and Henry Barnard are terrific and they absolutely steal the show. I know this isn’t a Disney movie, but I would definitely call those two comic reliefs because they truly are that. They are hilarious with their quarreling, Barny’s calling him Lovey is funny and their relationship overall is very comedic in tone and adds light to a film. And they can be seen in their behavior as an early gay couple which is also very interesting.

The acting is solid, but the performances that stand out are the same as the characters that stand out. Edward Everett Horton did a great job as memorable Lovey and of course Ronald Colman is very likable in the role of the protagonist and he gave a very good performance.

The action sequences are surprisingly good and the score is also solid. And the tone is mostly good, shifting from dramatic to comedic to spiritual. But the problems I have in this film are big. The first act definitely should have been shorter, some of the characters should have been better developed and the film never quite achieves its potential. And there are a lot of sequences that drag and slow the pace significantly.

All in all, Lost Horizon has its problems and it is of course nowhere near Capra’s best works, but it is also quite underrated with some great characters, great humor, amusing story with excellent dialogue and intriguing and very original premise and setting for the period.

My Rating – 4

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Grand Illusion (1937)

Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion Review

Directed by Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Gameand starring Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim, Grand Illusion is a 1937 war drama film that is cited as one of the best French as well as overall movies of all time.

It follows a group of prisoners of war plotting an escape during WWI. In terms of storytelling, this is not that strong a movie in my honest opinion. It was done before and after better. And the first half is rather boring and quite repetitive at times. But the second half is much better and the whole third act is brilliant. Thematically speaking, this is an excellent movie. It wonderfully explores the class relations during war along with the end of aristocracy. But what is the best thing about it is how beautifully open-minded it is with a great unbiased look at different nations and from different sides. And it has a strong anti-war statement which is terrific and highly needed as many war movies do not have that approach unfortunately. I absolutely adored the part with the German woman protecting the protagonists and hiding them in her house. Those scenes are what drive Grand Illusion. It is filled with humanism and evident hatred towards war.

The character development here is quite good, but not great. The two officers who manage to escape are definitely the standouts and, as I mentioned before, the German woman is great and very endearing. Those characters are definitely phenomenal, but the rest of the characters needed more work and fail to make a lasting impression.

As for the acting, it is magnificent. Jean Gabin and Dita Parlo are highlights, but all of the actors did a phenomenal job with their performances. But what I was not a fan of is the humor and constant odd behavior and yelling between the men. I thought the movie should have been more dramatic and the comedy route, even a parody of sorts, is not particularly well done and well suited for this kind of story. But the directing is great and there are many memorable scenes, especially the ending which is very satisfying. The editing is mediocre as some scenes definitely drag and sometimes the movie is repetitive, most notably in the first half. And the tone is too comedic, as I stated before. But the cinematography is wonderful as is the acting and the emotionally compelling and thematically rich approach. The movie is also smart with a sophisticated dialogue and it is visually appealing with some memorable imagery.

Grand Illusion has a thematically rich and emotionally satisfying approach, excellent directing from Jean Renoir, phenomenal performances and some very memorable scenes and imagery, but it is sometimes quite boring and repetitive, especially in the first half which is inferior to the second one, the character development could have been better and the film should have been less comedic and more dramatic. It is not as great as critics say in my opinion, but it is still a very good film especially for its wonderfully unbiased look at different nations and people from all sides and its humanist and anti-war message.

My Rating – 4

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