A 2021 Film Journey: Day 29

Today and this weekend’s film selections are all going to have something important in common. They are all going to be leaving The Criterion Channel at the end of the end of the month. Tonight’s film also had the benefit of being a giant blind spot to close at the same time.

It Happened One Night (1934, Dir. Frank Capra)

100 Essential Films: 5. It Happened One Night —

Somehow, before tonight, I’d only ever seen two Capra films, and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is the only one that I’ve seen in over a decade. Watching It Happened One Night, I can’t deny that it’s a great film, but I also can understand why Capra is not a personal go to.

Just to be crystal clear, It Happened One Night is a near perfect film. Claudette Colbert is an absolute goddess on film, and Clark Gable plays the boozer who falls for the perfect woman more than aptly. The screenplay is perfectly paced; each set piece builds upon the ones before it, raising the stakes and intensifying the situation for the leads. The misunderstanding at the heart of the climax is one of the most believable of its kind. Every piece works well together in as a tightly crafted whole.

While I can’t deny the execution and polish of the film, I have to acknowledge to myself that perfectly told stories are not why I personally watch movies. I smiled the entire time that I watched It Happened One Night, but I doubt it will still be at the front of my mind tomorrow. I want to be respectful of the film because it’s wrong to judge a film for something that it didn’t try to be. I’m saying this not to slander the film, but to acknowledge where a film can be great without scratching my own personal itch. There was everything to appreciate about It Happened One Night but very little to wrestle with, and more and more when I watch movies I’m looking to wrestle.

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