– Comrade X is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –
Comrade X (1940) Directed by King Vidor
King Vidor’s Ninotchka-esque political satire about a doughty American reporter (Clark Gable) in the Soviet Union chronicling its treacherous internecine politics is artistically constrained by the Hollywood propaganda tradition of the early 1940s and thus prevented from being a work of open-minded perspectives, yet it is effervescently humorous, charmingly endowed with screwball madness and romantic nonsense making it instantly irresistible. There is no Vidorian realism here, but the systematic classicism is direct and frenetic as are its dialectical characters; these are superficial properties but they work in their many facets – part anti-communist exaltation, part rom-com, part espionage drama and part melodrama. Although the propagandistic rhetoric is blatantly immodest, the sensuality of the performances is pure subtle art and the situational chaos is permanently unbridled but appropriately goofy, adding excitement to the monochromatic atmosphere and refinement to the comedic irreverence. When the blackmail plot kicks in and Clark Gable becomes entangled in a love story – and romance of ideologies – with the pretty, ardent communist “Theodore” (Hedy Lamarr) the film never ceases to be an unfailing generator of laughs. Lamarr and Gable embody the contrasting ideals of communism and capitalism with mordant piquancy – Gable’s dialogue is even shockingly prophetic and Lamarr’s a hysterical display of ideological intransigence – and while the plot clearly glorifies Americanism, the ending seems more a celebration of the human spirit.