To Be or Not to Be ★★★★½

The political, the personal and the farcical mingling with such unforced grace -- this is so much stronger as an extension of Lubitsch's carefree early '30s comedies than Ninotchka, with Carole Lombard luminous (perhaps her best performance) and Jack Benny an amusingly lopsided ham as a Polish theatrical couple (no attempt at accents, mercifully), half of whom likes to do a little bit of stepping around that gets them tangled up with the Gestapo and mustering up all their actorly skills after Hitler invades. The plotting is masterful, withholding just enough information to continually delight in its unexpected turnarounds and one-ups, never permitting an easy shortcut out of its uncomfortable, hilarious situations; at the same time the film is to be commended for -- in 1942 -- both making Hitler and the Nazis look extremely foolish and advocating a violent, fiery resistance against fascism. (You weep to consider how impossible it would be to tell the same story now without the snowflakes at NRO and the like stamping their hateful little feet.) It's one of those movies that feels like it has the wind at its back, and even now, even with all the laughs and all the kinds of laughs it offers, you can still feel the urgency.