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I went to see this this morning amongst one of the fullest houses I have ever seen at the Cottage Road cinema. I've watched and reviewed it twice before in this journal: once in 2010, when I found James Stewart's profile pleasing, but just couldn't buy into the sentimentality or the idealisation of small-town America and its reactionary values, and again in 2011, when I had moved on to considering James Stewart 'fab' and noticing the meta-referentiality of the first half of the film, but also expounded further on the racism and sexism - especially the scene where we are supposed to find the spectacle of a young George Bailey pressing his advantage on Mary while she hides naked in a hydrangea bush romantic and funny.

This time... I don't know. Maybe now that I've articulated how I feel about both the sentimentality and the various -isms embedded into or even celebrated by the story, it's easier for me to separate those out, treat the film like the curate's egg it is and enjoy those parts of it that are excellent? Or maybe it was just the large audience in a festive mood, who laughed along appreciatively to what are actually a lot of very funny lines - not to mention the mince pie and mulled wine which I bought during the intermission. It being my third time round I also spotted various small things which I don't think I've noticed before, like the large bust of Napoleon on the windowsill in Mr. Potter's office, which nicely symbolises his aggressively imperialising approach to business. That kind of attention to detail always helps me to warm towards a film.

I also thought properly for the first time about why The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is so important to the story that the angel, Clarence Odbody, goes round clutching it throughout the entire film, and then gives it to George as a Christmas gift at the end. In part it must be because the book puts such emphasis on the friendship between Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, which fits nicely with Clarence's inscription on the front page at the end of the film: "no man is a failure who has friends." But (having just re-checked the plot on Wikipedia), I can see now that more important is probably the episode in which Tom, Huck and their friend Joe run away for a while to an island in the Mississippi, and have a wonderful time until they realise that their families back home think they have all drowned in the river. That resonates with two key notes in It's a Wonderful Life - not prioritising your own desire for adventure over other people's happiness, and (because Tom secretly observes how his family are responding to his absence) getting to see what the world would be like if you weren't in it. So, yes, I see how that's an important inter-text.

One more thing - it occurred to me this time that since the angel Clarence watches the first two-thirds of the film from heaven as though on a film-reel before he goes down to Earth and meets George Bailey, he should have seen exactly what happened to the $8000 dollars which Uncle Billy misplaced, and have been able to tell George where it was and who had it. Obviously, that would have scotched the sentimental ending in which everyone chips in to help George cover the loss, and as it has taken me three viewings to even notice it, I guess it isn't really a problem, plot-wise. Plus Clarence is characterised early on as a bit dim, so maybe he just didn't even realise himself that it might be helpful to explain to George what had happened. But still, it would have been nice at least to know whether Mr. Potter ever got his comeuppance for keeping it.

I probably wouldn't ever bother to watch this film again in my life if it weren't a regular fixture on the Cottage Road cinema's Christmas programme. Indeed, that was already true after only one viewing of it. But since it's there, and since after three viewings now it has effectively become a Christmas tradition for me, and since James Stewart... I guess I won't go out of my way to avoid future viewings in the same setting.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
whatifoundthere
Dec. 24th, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
If you ever feel like you've had too much sentimentality for a given Christmas season, you could always enjoy a guilty laugh at SNL's take on IaWL. It has the added bonus of closing one of the plot holes you complained about. :)

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Penny! I'm so glad I got to see you this year.
strange_complex
Dec. 25th, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
Ha-ha, thanks, that was ace! Very well done, too.

It was great to see you too - here's to our next meeting in foreign lands. :-)
foxy76
Dec. 27th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
I watched this on Christmas Eve this year - mainly because I was very tired and it was the only thing on TV at the time I was crashed on the sofa!
It's not a film that I love - mainly because I find the idea of not being able to chase and achieve your dreams a bit depressing. It feels a bit like the overriding message is that you should do your duty to society. And that smacks slightly of propaganda rather than entertainment.

I'm obviously going a bit soft in my old age because this viewing I appreciated the sense that communities should pull together during tough times in a way that I haven't before.
I also really noticed that the fate of the missing $8000 was never revealed. I quite liked that really - it's very realistic and I like the braveness of storylines that don't feel the need to tie up every loose end. Mr Potter's comeuppance wasn't relevant to George Bailey's worth to his friends and I think that's interesting.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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