Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Duck Soup - Politics Wrapped in Humor

“Duck Soup” is a very entertaining movie. My son and I watched it and decided that we needed to embrace and see past the juvenile, slapstick humor to understand the irony of the story. The story is a farce, and far-fetched, but resonates with interesting messages about war, greed, and, in some ways, elitism.
Roger Ebert sums it up by writing:
“[The Marx Brothers brought an] essentially Jewish style of humor into the dominant note of American comedy. [T]hey were as surrealist as Dali, as shocking as Stravinsky, as verbally outrageous as Gertrude Stein, as alienated as Kafka… ‘As an absurdist essay on politics and warfare,’ wrote the British critic Patrick McCray, ‘”Duck Soup” can stand alongside (or even above) the works of Beckett and Ionesco’” (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20000709/REVIEWS08/7090301/1023)
Samuel Beckett: (1906-1989) “[A]n Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life…His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Beckett).
Eugene Ionesco: (1909-1994) “[A] Romanian and French playwright and dramatist, and one of the foremost playwrights of the Theater of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco’s plays depict, in a tangible way, the solitude and insignificance of the human existence” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Ionesco).
Additionally, I think viewers need to take the historical time-frame into account when watching this movie. Many ideas expressed—individuality, the ridiculousness of war and government—were newly expressed to mass amounts of people at the same time in movie theaters. This could have been viewed as “Un-American.”
I love the mirror-image scene:

Here is the same scene performed by Harpo Marx and Lucille Ball on "I Love Lucy:"

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