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Ninotchka Reviews

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Super Reviewer

July 23, 2013
The sale of an exiled countess's diamonds brings a Soviet investigator to Paris where she falls her rival.
Garbo laughs! Greta Garbo delivers a phenomenal performance as the eponymous character in this romantic satire/farce. Garbo's cyborg character softens about forty-five minutes into the film, and from then on she becomes old cinema's definition of charming, charismatic female lead. Melvyn Douglas is a fine leading man, and the three Russian stooges provide good comic relief.
The film is typical Cold War-era fare -- maybe a little more complex as Leon actually reads Das Kapital, but that only sets up the butler's capitalistic retort to Communist ideology. But the film's strength is that it stays focused on the human relationship and the change in the character rather than on the what Ninotchka's conversion means as a political statement.
Overall, this is a charming film that keeps its political message in the background.

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
This predictable romantic comedy disguises itself as a story about relations between Russia and France, but that story takes a back seat to the romance in the end. I found this movie contrived and boring. I liked the more comedic remake, Silk Stockings (1957), better than the original.
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

February 15, 2010
Greta Garbo stars in the title role in this pre-cold war look at the Soviet Union. When three emissaries come to Paris to sell the royal jewelry confiscated during the revolution, Leon (Melvyn Douglas), representing the Duchess, attempts to reclaim the jewels in her name. The no-nonsense Ninotchka, a high-ranking official, is sent to straighten out the mess and get money for the jewels which her country so desperately needs. But things go awry when she meets Leon by accident (the two don't know each other yet) while sight-seeing, and they fall in love at first sight. Ninotchka has two distinct parts to it: one is a conventional love story, the other is probably the most unique portrayal of Soviet-western relations in the history of cinema. It's one of the rare instances of the Soviet Union (Stalin's Soviet Union, no less) not being villainized but rather viewed from a realistic, humanist point of view. Don't get me wrong, it's not glorified either, the Soviet Union is portrayed as a desperate, secretive place, but it's the people are good and noble. The aristocracy is the real villain in the film, being petty and bourgeois and treating those not of noble birth as inferior. On the other hand, the other part is a fairly low caliber love story that in modern times would star Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. There's something very "Miss Congeniality" about the whole thing. The idea that this film is billed as a comedy is also highly questionable, as there's nothing all that funny to be found in it. Melvyn Douglas is a cardboard character who's role could've been filled by virtually any other actor of his day and it would've had nil effect on the film. Garbo's performance however, was quite good in what would be one of her last roles. All in all, a mixed bag of a film.

Super Reviewer

November 2, 2007
Ken S

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2007
One of my new favorites. One of the most charming movies ever made.
John B

Super Reviewer

February 6, 2012
Very entertaining for Garbo, not so much for Melvyn Douglas who seems out of place in this role. Nonetheless, if it pops up on TMN, give it a whirl.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2014
Its not false advertising to claim that "Garbo laughs" in this film (it happens on more than one occasion) but she's also endlessly charming and surprisingly funny.

Super Reviewer

October 8, 2009
Ninotchka: What have you done for mankind?
Leon: Not so much for mankind... for womankind, my record isn't quite so bleak.

Ninotchka: Let's form our own party.
Leon: Right. Lovers of the world, unite!

Ninotchka: I must have a complete report of your negotiations and a detailed expense account.
Buljanoff: No, non, Ninotchka. Don't ask for it. There's an old Turkish proverb that says: If something smells bad, why put your nose in it?
Ninotchka: And there is an old Russian saying: The cat with cream on his whiskers had better find good excuses.

Ninotchka was one of the first in which Holywood took note of the existence of Soviet Russia (then an ally of Germany). The approach was satirical: Greta Garbo (Ninotchka) was a cold, automation-like Communist, a kind of ugly duckling transformed into a swan by Melvyn Douglas (Count Leon) who used the magic of Paris to perform the trick..

It's based on the story by Melchior Lengyel, that leaves us with the message that capitalism is not so bad when compared with communism and especially when promoted by a handsome stud like Melvyn Douglas. The film gingerly criticizes the politics of the Soviet Union at a time when they were being courted to be on the side of the West against the war-mongering fascists.

Three bumbling Soviet emissaries, arrive in Paris on a mission to sell the valuable royal jewels confiscated from the Grand Duchess Swana during the Communist revolution. The aim is to get quick cash for the strapped Russian government to feed its hungry workers. When they botch the sale, their big boss Commissar Razinin (Bela Lugosi) sends as a special envoy, the loyal, humourless and stern Ninotchka to straighten things out. Swana, in the meantime, retains her playboy boyfriend Count Leon to retrieve the diamonds. In the process Leon starts a romance with the icy Ninotchka, converts the three comrades to be full-fledged capitalists and in the end convinces a warmed-over Ninotchka to stay with him in Paris.

The film contains many inside jokes, including a historical encounter between the great instinctive artist of the screen and the great stylist-technician of the stage-Ina Claire-as a Russian grand duchess. The sarcastic joke: the Russians don't defect for freedom but for consumer goods is one of some of the sociological banters which is a bit outdated, but a light-hearted Garbo still sparkles and shines. She did "flirt, dance, drink, howl, romance and kiss" in a non-Garbo way.

Directed by Lubitch, this light, satirical comedy has the nonchalance and sophistication that were his trademark (To Be or Not To Be, Heaven Can Wait). The subtle gestures and meanings still work effectively.

Super Reviewer

March 29, 2012
A charming comedy with some really great dialogue in some of the scenes.
cody f

Super Reviewer

March 3, 2009
I've been on a bit of a Lubitsch kick lately and Ninotchka is one of his best. Lubitsch is a great writer and really good with actors. Garbo and Melvyn Douglas are great together and have wonderful chemistry. Douglas plays a french playboy who falls for the no nonsense communist Garbo. His charm slowly melts away her strong Soviet beliefs, but she must choose between love and country. Very entertaining with great performances.
January 16, 2014
A little something off the To-Watch Pile and another classic film crossed off the list. My first exposure to Greta Garbo, and it was nice to see Melvyn Douglas as her love interest, I've enjoyed him in everything I've caught him on before.

Well worth a rental.
October 22, 2011
By now,Greta Garbo's best-known and most-loved performance,Ninotchka. Directed by and with the delicacy and magic of Ernst Lubitsch's famous touch,and from the script by Billly Wilder,Charles Brackett,and Walter Reisch,it sure was a winning combination. A delightful and very beautiful comedy about a cold Russian agent(Garbo) coming to Paris to close a deal,and ending falling in love with gay-blade Melvyn Douglas. With a great supporting cast showing some fine comedy flair,the film is one of the most elegant comedies from the 30ths. A true classic,with Greta Garbo still shining,an eternal beauty!
August 2, 2011
I missed the opening credits. At first I didn't realize it was a comedy because it was so droll. Duh! I felt really dumb, but I'm not used to comedies that are subtle. It didn't take long for the romance element to charm me. I just knew under that hard, communist, unemotional exterior, she had to have a heart and I had to keep watching to find out how long it would take for her to show it. I thought it was very funny, and very cute!
February 9, 2010
A Communist comedy in 1939? Sounds strange, but it works beautifully. I've never really cared for Greta Garbo, but in this one she really shines. She was funny and fresh, and Melvyn Douglas was the perfect comedic counterpart for her. And Billy Wilder helped pen the script, isn't that all you really need for a recommendation?
August 19, 2009
Greta Garbo took a chance on a romantic comedy and it worked. This is a delightful film, magnificently directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Well acted by all, particularly the supporting cast. Filled with many memorable scenes, a great screenplay. Excellent art direction and costumes.
October 28, 2008
garbo showed a talent for comedy that had only been hinted at in the lighter moments of some of her early films. she was soviet envoy nina yaukushova in this delightful comic ode to a twnikling paris!
July 29, 2008
One of my fav Garbo performances, it almost is tongue in cheek because Garbo was often the serious one, a doomed temptress or lover who doomed others. Here she gets to take that and seriousness and spin it, playing with her tight lipped smirk and stretching it to a wonderful smile that we all knew she had.
August 18, 2007
Although "Ninotchka" was purely political at the time, it has endured today as a classic comedy. Garbo gives a great performance as the stern communist, Ninotchka. A must-see for anyone who loves Garbo or classic comedies!
December 9, 2007
An highly entertaining film and a vision packed with humor of the international relations of the late 1930s. The scenes in the USSR specially are a vibrant testimony of Lubitsch wit and visual talent. It is also very pleasant to see Paris at the peak of its appeal before the war changed it for ever.
November 28, 2007
Greta Garbo can do more than look overly dramatic, she can really act, who knew?
Melvyn Douglas is terrific wooing a deadpan, humorless, very funny, communist, Greta Garbo as she sweetly and very slowly starts enjoying some of the "extravagances" available in Paris, instead of loving the austerity she feels is proper and has back in Russia.
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