Friday 3 February 2023

It's a Wonderful Life [1946]

 Frank Capra – arguably one of the most beloved Old Hollywood filmmakers – was, according to the popular line of thinking, a socially conscious man who empathized with the little people; however, according to another school of thought, he was a moralist, populist and closet conservative. It’s A Wonderful Life, being perhaps his most enduring work, was interlaced with both these seemingly irreconcilable facets, and that’s what made this such an interesting film; hence, to just typify it as a heart-warming Christmas classic, is to take a simplistic stance. The first production of Liberty Films – which Capra co-founded with William Wyler and George Stevens – this quintessential Dickensian fable with both religious and political overtones was centred on George Bailey (James Stewart) who, despite his desire to complete college and travel the world, is compelled to put his dreams on permanent hold when his father suddenly dies, in order to defiantly keep afloat his family-run business – aimed at providing affordable housing loans to the town’s working class folks – against all possible oppositions thrown in by the slimy, avaricious and Scrooge-like business man Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore) who wants to gobble up all the land and properties in the town. However, when he’s finally pushed to the brink and contemplates suicide on a Christmas Eve, a guardian angel (Henry Travers) is sent from the heavens to intervene. The film’s sentimentality, contrivances, simplistic religious morality and bathos were among its weakest aspects, while its evocation of the changing American landscape from Depression-era pessimism to Post-War hope, Stewart’s tremendous turn and the nightmarish, Dante-esque alternate reality that Bailey briefly experiences – arguably the film’s most fascinating and problematic segment – saved it from its own overt sincerity.

Director: Frank Capra

Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama

Language: English

Country: US

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