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Ninotchka

Greta Garbo , Melvyn Douglas , Ernst Lubitsch    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Ah, those fun-loving Communists! In Ninotchka three Soviets make their way to Paris to sell off imperial jewels to raise money to buy tractors for the USSR. When Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire), former owner of the jewels, discovers what's happening, she deploys her lover Leon (Melvyn Douglas) to recover her gems. He starts a court proceeding while seducing the three bumbling Soviets with the luxuries of capitalistic life. The delay of the sale is noticed in Moscow, and Comrade Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) is dispatched to Paris to settle the matter. Soon after arrival, she meets Leon, who is charmed by her severe, uptight manner and her stunning beauty ("I love Russians! Comrade, I've been fascinated by your five-year plan for the last 15 years"), and he sets about wooing her, despite her disbelief in love (it's merely a "chemical reaction," she dourly informs him). Romance, jealousy, and capitalistic frivolity ensue.

When this film was released in 1939, it was advertised as "Garbo laughs," as it was her first and only comedy. The film, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is amusing not only for its story line, but also for its dated look at early Communism (Ninotchka keeps a photo of a stern-looking Lenin by her bedside, although she feels uncomfortable doing so in a room that costs 2,000 francs a night, the price of a cow back home). The satirical image of the young Communist fighting against corrupt Western ways seems somewhat idealistic today but nonetheless provided levity during the shaky political times of the film's release. Viewers may be jarred by the casual "Heil Hitler" greeting of a couple at the train station, but overall this film holds up as one of Lubitsch's masterpieces and a lighter glimpse of the mysterious Garbo. --Jenny Brown


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFUL AND FUNNY! Jan. 2 2009
Format:DVD
What can be said of Garbo? Saying it again is not enough. In Ninotchka, Garbo portrays the steely-faced Ninotchka, stern functionary of Stalinist Russia. See comes to Paris to correct trade commissioners who have over-stepped their bounds. Over the course of her stay, she discovers the "City of Light", a life of laughter and love, and a desire to wear the silliest hat imaginable. Garbo begins by playing straight man to Melvyn Douglas' playboy. Their scenes together are loaded with rapid fire dialogue and brilliant jousting. And when Garbo, drunk on champagne, gets silly, Douglas and her play it up with some classic sight gags. An excellent classic movie in every respect.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Garbo's great comedic role May 4 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Yet another yummy Ernst Lubitsch comedy, this time starring the often-dour Greta Garbo as a humorless Soviet agent who is seduced by Western materialism (and a dashing, jovial Melvyn Douglas) while on a mission in Paris. Some may find the film's political aspects to be dated -- but hey, that's totally the point! Lubitsch manages to lampoon both Stalin-era communism and the American stereotypes of the French (as libertine sensualists) all at one time... And while the Soviet state is roundly mocked, the plight of its people is not, so that Garbo's character is given her dignity and honor... as well as some swell close-ups and nice clothes! The best part of this film is her transformation from a robotic, literal-minded Party functionary into a fully-rounded human being... The scene in which Douglas tries to crack Ninotchka's icy facade, telling jokes and acting up in order to provoke a laugh or a smile, while she rebuffs his every overture in a clipped, chilly monotone, is one of Garbo's best performances, and a brilliant comedic stroke for Lubitsch. In effect, the manic, wisecracking Douglas is turned into a straight man for Garbo, whose minimalistic delivery controls the scene, in an almost Steven Wright-like manner. And, of course, the rest of the film is a delight as well. A fascinating, frivolous look at prewar European politics, and a real humdinger of a screwball comedy, with a clever, snappy script co-written by Billy Wilder. What's not to enjoy, comrade?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Madame , this is a restaurant not a medow! Oct. 26 2003
Format:VHS Tape
So says the Parisian waiter to the stern Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) as she orders a plate of---well I guess it could pass for nouvelle cuisine in California today.
Meanwhile Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas) smitten hopelessly with 'my beautiful, barbaric Ninotchka' attempts to convince her that he dines at this 'worker's proleteriat' restaurant every day, and worse, tries to make her lsugh by telling her a lame joke about two Scotsmen. Am I getting to complicated? No matter, this scene, like every other scene in this film, is funny, witty, urbane and has a wonderfull pay-off at the end.
NINOTCHKA is THE archetype of the romantic screwball comedies.
The best.--and Garbo's only comedy.
Lubitsch's masterpiece (I'd give 'To Be or not To Be' a close second place) is delicious fun all the way through.
Greta Garbo spoofs communism, French sophisticates, the eternal war of the sexes, but most of all, she spoofs the screen personna of Greta Garbo.
One can tell that she had a blast playing counter to type--no melodramatic semitragic heroines here, it's pure wit and laughs. A fast and crazy ride, as the idealistic Ninotchka falls in love.
Among the writing credits you might notice a recent emigre to America: Billy Wilder.
See it with someone you love. And if you start to get carried away, 'Suppress it'
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Format:VHS Tape
Ninotchka is a funny, well-written film with a good dash of romance showcasing Greta Garbo's beautiful, expressive eyes.
Her unlikely relationship with Melvyn Douglas is a hit; one that you hope will succeed.
The only flaw in the film is its characterization of Soviet Russians as buffoons (contrast the simpleton emissaries with the multi-faceted duchess) and its constant smug references to the superiority of the U.S. political system. Initially these references are just another facet of the good comedy: "I've been fascinated by your five year plan for the past 15 years" but after awhile they wear thin: [the man walking through another's apartment to get to his own or the line about the bird leaving a crumb of black bread].
Nevertheless, the action and the script, taken as a whole, is very smart and very funny. It includes some great romantic lines such as when a wooing Douglas (referring Garbo to a clock) says, "Look, one hand has met the other hand...they've kissed."
Garbo is the star. I didn't have any pre-conceived expectations of what she wouldn't do but the laugh scene in the cafe is certainly one of the highlights and key moments of the film--one that will likely have you laughing too.
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Format:VHS Tape
When three Russians, Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljanoff (Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach), go to Paris to sell some jewels, trouble is sure to begin when the Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) finds out. The reason? Because the jewels the three Russians are trying to sell originally belonged to her! With the help of her good friend, Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas), they make it so that the jewels can't be sold unless the matter is brought to court. As Leon makes the Russians completely comfortable in the 'terribly Capitalistic city of Paris', envoy extradinaire Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) is sent to fix matters up. Strangely enough, Leon falls head over heals in love with the dour and stiff Ninotchka, even when he is told by her that love is only a 'chemical reaction'. But how can Ninotchka keep believing that when she begins to not only begin loving Paris, but to begin falling in love with Leon?
Believe it or not, this is my first Greta Garbo movie to watch! And I immediately fell in love with her style of acting. She just shines in her role as the 'seemingly' dull and unattrative Russian woman. But, I mean literally, she just seems to become more and more beautiful as we see the real woman inside of her. And as many other reviewers mentioned, when she laughs, it was just so charming, you couldn't help but smile and laugh along! Melvyn Douglas was equally charming in his role and the perfect example of a 'decadent and capitalistic gentleman'. He is so full of charm you can't help but smile the whole time he's on the screen. There are plenty of other notable cast members (the three Russians and the Grand Duchess) but Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas are who really add the sugar and spice the movie.
The humor is incredibly well incorporated into the film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
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Published 7 days ago by madeleine champagne
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This is a delightful movie with a clever plot and terrific dialogue. They truly don't make movies like this anymore. Read more
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To see someone like Garbo choosing to be fun, instead of beautiful, is a real treat. This won't spoil anything: viewers will fall out when Garbo, all dowdy and Soviet-like, goes... Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by W. Steve White
4.0 out of 5 stars go Grand Duchess
Had he not also plumbed the Third Reich for laughs, in To Be or Not to Be, one would be inclined to say that Ernst Lubitsch's take on the
USSR is too light-hearted here. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by Orrin C. Judd
5.0 out of 5 stars Must you flirt?
I saw this movie one rainy night at the Clatsop Community College campus in Astoria, Oregon. I've been in love with this movie ever since. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2001 by Matthew
5.0 out of 5 stars Fewer But Better Russians
An expertly-played and presented comedy that continues to be dogged by detractors for the oddest reasons. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2001 by El Kabong
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Published on March 13 2001 by Alex Udvary
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