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NINOTCHKA (1939, USA) – 8/10

Swedish Greta Garbo is one of the first Hollywood stars, and her role in Ernst Lubich’s romantic comedy was almost the complete opposite of the cold, melancholic, tragic characters she was famous for in the twenties of the last century. The role of the Soviet agent Ninotchka, who went to pre-war Paris, is actually a kind of parody of the characters that Garbo embodied during her career, which she surprisingly decided to end in the early forties. This only added to the enigma of Garbo, and the role of Ninotchka earned her her fourth and final Oscar nomination for a leading female role, while this romantic comedy was actually the penultimate film she made.

And although “Ninotchka” is undoubtedly an archaic and old-fashioned film, it was a surprisingly entertaining and even witty romantic comedy compared to which the vast majority of modern offshoots of the genre can hide in a mouse hole. It’s almost a classic comedy of confusion, because the Soviet agent Ninotchka will arrive in Paris in the 1930s in order to get three troubled Soviet agents out of trouble who have grown fond of life in the Western way. Iranoff, Buljanoff and Kopalski are officials of the Soviet Ministry of Trade whose task in Paris is to resell jewelry confiscated from the Russian aristocracy after the civil war.

However, it will turn out that the jewelry they are trying to sell on the black market to cover the holes in the Soviet economy belongs to the duchess who found refuge in the capital of France. Her lawyer, Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) will try to return the jewelry to her before the Soviets sell it, and after the situation becomes completely complicated, Moscow will send special agent Nina Ivanovna Yakušova or Ninočka to Paris. She is a cold, vicious, ardent communist who wants to finish her job as soon as possible and return home to the Soviet Union, but by chance she will fall into a romance with Count Leon, not knowing that he represents the other side.

Little by little, her facade of the ice queen will slowly melt, and it is the film that openly mocks Stalin’s one-party totalitarian system at the time. It is interesting that Lubitsch was one of the first German filmmakers to try his hand at Hollywood, and during the thirties he was one of the biggest directing stars. He became especially famous for similar romantic comedies, and “Ninotchka” was also special because, perhaps for the first time on film, the ice queen Garbo could be seen laughing, so it is not surprising that this romantic comedy was advertised with “Garbo is smiling!”. Also, one of the screenwriters of “Ninotchka” was another later extremely successful filmmaker, also of German origin, Billy Wilder, who became one of the most important and best Hollywood directors during the forties and fifties.