Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Zoom Lens 

Wednesday, Dec 9 1998
Comments
The Shop Around the Corner
The classic romantic comedies of director Ernst Lubitsch and screenwriter Samson Raphaelson contrast the thrill of instant gratification and the pleasure of the delayed payoff without demeaning either -- love of any kind is viewed as a funny sort of miracle. Both Lubitsch and Raphaelson agreed that The Shop Around the Corner (1940), a bittersweet valentine to a Budapest leather-goods shop, was their truest collaboration. The Stanford Theater presents it for a two-week run, Dec. 11-23, so that movie-lovers can see it both before and after Nora Ephron's remake, You've Got Mail (which opens Dec. 18). It's hard to fathom how a remake could be more pertinent than the original -- if any film deserves the adjective "timeless," it's The Shop Around the Corner. The movie depicts all the flirting and intrigue that can arise among men and women who hope to build a life around a steady job and family and in some ways make their co-workers part of the family.

The central love story between James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan is virtually a love quadrangle played out by just two people. Stewart is the top employee at the shop; Sullavan is a sales girl hired over his objections. What we soon realize, and they don't, is that they're romantic pen-pals -- they've been courting each other anonymously, by mail. In their love letters, Stewart and Sullavan are passionately, whimsically high-minded; in their workaday lives they banter evasively, to deny the flirtatious tugs they feel toward each other. They must learn to believe in their own best self-images, to transfer their chivalric dreams to the shop. The movie builds to their amorous breakthrough in six sequences that rise and fall with the surprising weight of mini-lifetimes. Stewart and Sullavan -- and Lubitsch and Raphaelson -- never did better work. It's beautifully rhythmed to the beating human heart.

-- Michael Sragow

The Shop Around the Corner opens Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. (with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.) at the Stanford Theater, 221 University (at Emerson), Palo Alto. Admission is $6; call (650) 324-3700.

About The Author

Michael Sragow

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • U2 @ SAP Center in San Jose
    Last night U2 performed the first U.S. date of it’s Innocence + Experience tour at SAP Center in San Jose. All four band members were present despite recent injuries sustained by both Bono and Edge. The sold out show took audience members on a walk down memory lane as the band revisited their roots. The innovative stage and lighting used gave the arena show an intimate feel, and engaged audience members in all sections of the venue. Photographs by Sugarwolf.
  • Bay to Breakers 2015 - NSFW
    The 103rd annual Bay to Breakers 12K race was packed on Sunday despite the cold weather. With a starting point a few blocks from The Embarcadero, people dressed as bananas, Elvis and everything in between ran west through the city and finished at the Great Highway where breakers crash onto Ocean Beach.

    Photographs by Christopher Victorio.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed