To Be or Not to Be Reviews

  • Feb 14, 2019

    Propaganda material for the Allies -- when they really didn't understand how evil the Nazi menace was. The comedy attempts are below average, especially when filtered through the lens of time. The subject matter is not something you can make funny -- the situation was too dire and this attempt to lighten something serious just doesn't work. It served its purpose during the war years, but quickly lost relevance after the war.

    Propaganda material for the Allies -- when they really didn't understand how evil the Nazi menace was. The comedy attempts are below average, especially when filtered through the lens of time. The subject matter is not something you can make funny -- the situation was too dire and this attempt to lighten something serious just doesn't work. It served its purpose during the war years, but quickly lost relevance after the war.

  • Carlos M Super Reviewer
    Aug 20, 2018

    It takes a brilliant filmmaker to find the perfect tone for something as insane as a slapstick satire involving Nazis at the height of World War II, and Lubitsch not only hits the mark with a fabulous cast (Jack Benny is priceless) but creates a film that is truly hilarious.

    It takes a brilliant filmmaker to find the perfect tone for something as insane as a slapstick satire involving Nazis at the height of World War II, and Lubitsch not only hits the mark with a fabulous cast (Jack Benny is priceless) but creates a film that is truly hilarious.

  • Aug 11, 2018

    Hilarious movie with near perfect writing. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard were fantastic. The acting on a whole, development of characters, timing of delivery and pace of the film were spot on. Put this on, you won't regret it.

    Hilarious movie with near perfect writing. Jack Benny and Carole Lombard were fantastic. The acting on a whole, development of characters, timing of delivery and pace of the film were spot on. Put this on, you won't regret it.

  • Mar 08, 2018

    Inimitable war era comedy with a masterpiece of a screenplay, 'Inglorious Basterds' may take a rest. Ernst Lubitsch is as funny as ever and the picture is a flawless production with literally every scene being a comedic and farce experience. Timeliness of the picture couldn't be more precise.

    Inimitable war era comedy with a masterpiece of a screenplay, 'Inglorious Basterds' may take a rest. Ernst Lubitsch is as funny as ever and the picture is a flawless production with literally every scene being a comedic and farce experience. Timeliness of the picture couldn't be more precise.

  • Feb 08, 2018

    I found this film compelling due to its satiric depiction of the Nazi's. During the scene where Joseph was impersonating Col. Ehrhardt, it felt like he was exaggerating his behavior only to reveal that the real Col. Ehrhardt acts more ridiculous. Displaying them as incompetent made for a powerful attack on the Nazi's. Also, many of the humorous lines and scenes from the film were quite memorable and they lingered with me for a while due to the film's interpretive aspect.

    I found this film compelling due to its satiric depiction of the Nazi's. During the scene where Joseph was impersonating Col. Ehrhardt, it felt like he was exaggerating his behavior only to reveal that the real Col. Ehrhardt acts more ridiculous. Displaying them as incompetent made for a powerful attack on the Nazi's. Also, many of the humorous lines and scenes from the film were quite memorable and they lingered with me for a while due to the film's interpretive aspect.

  • Aug 17, 2017

    Of course, when Lubitsch's masterpiece was released mere months after the US entered WWII, it was a divisive critical and commercial failure. Who could have the deplorable audacity and bad taste to mock a horrific tyrant like Hitler? Yet what Lubitsch so clearly intuited already in the early part of the war was how realist psychologization and dramatic gravity mythologized the figure of the Führer, making him larger than life and inevitably granting him the political and social power he so desperately craved. Hence humor, subverting Hitler's terror not by denying it (as with Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful") but by showing the inherent farce that underlies the world's most violent war machine. This subversive mocking is made most evident in a scene when the traitorous Professor (Ridges) attempts to convince Maria Tura (Lombard) to join the Nazis: He praises the humanity, the culture, the social greatness of the Nazis, trying to smugly sell her on the movement based on its more polite and human elements. This scene stands in stark contrast to more recent Nazi films, such as Ragussis' "Imperium" (2016), which try to show the human and psychological side of Nazis not for comedic but pathetic dramatic effect, as if to say: Look, they were not monsters, but humans too, subjects we can identify with and feel for, minds to understand and hearts to change. What Lubitsch exposes in his wittily crafted satire is the failure of such ideological attempts: In humanizing the Nazis, filmmakers do not lessen their mythos, but heighten and excuse it.

    Of course, when Lubitsch's masterpiece was released mere months after the US entered WWII, it was a divisive critical and commercial failure. Who could have the deplorable audacity and bad taste to mock a horrific tyrant like Hitler? Yet what Lubitsch so clearly intuited already in the early part of the war was how realist psychologization and dramatic gravity mythologized the figure of the Führer, making him larger than life and inevitably granting him the political and social power he so desperately craved. Hence humor, subverting Hitler's terror not by denying it (as with Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful") but by showing the inherent farce that underlies the world's most violent war machine. This subversive mocking is made most evident in a scene when the traitorous Professor (Ridges) attempts to convince Maria Tura (Lombard) to join the Nazis: He praises the humanity, the culture, the social greatness of the Nazis, trying to smugly sell her on the movement based on its more polite and human elements. This scene stands in stark contrast to more recent Nazi films, such as Ragussis' "Imperium" (2016), which try to show the human and psychological side of Nazis not for comedic but pathetic dramatic effect, as if to say: Look, they were not monsters, but humans too, subjects we can identify with and feel for, minds to understand and hearts to change. What Lubitsch exposes in his wittily crafted satire is the failure of such ideological attempts: In humanizing the Nazis, filmmakers do not lessen their mythos, but heighten and excuse it.

  • May 26, 2017

    Just as a general piece of advice: Don't try watching To Be or Not to Be immediately after watching Schindler's List. It is so difficult to shift into laughing at Nazis and taking WWII lightly right after watching the darkness and devastation that war brought. Eventually I was able to fix my mindset and forgive the levity as a bit of escapism in a time of crisis. There are a lot of funny situations in this film and they are made even funnier when Jack Benny is involved in them. I loved the scenes where he meets up with Colonel Ehrhardt in particular because his interplay with Sig Ruman is priceless. I was surprised and a bit disappointed how little Carole Lombard had to do in most of the film. She has a lot of talent, but felt like just a face through much of this movie. There are a lot of funny twists and turns in To Be or Not to Be, and it kept me guessing how they would get out of their predicament. There were a couple of spots where it felt like I was missing some explanation, as if things just happened off-screen without us seeing it. I also struggled just a little bit recognizing who were the members of the acting troupe. I just didn't learn their faces well enough, I guess. To Be or Not to Be has that classic kind of comedy that I love. I always respond well to wit over the more crass stuff that makes up most of modern comedy. It didn't quite have me laughing out loud most of the time, but I got some hearty chuckles at least. I suspect if I watch it again, and have my mind right to accept a comedy about WWII, then I'll enjoy it much more.

    Just as a general piece of advice: Don't try watching To Be or Not to Be immediately after watching Schindler's List. It is so difficult to shift into laughing at Nazis and taking WWII lightly right after watching the darkness and devastation that war brought. Eventually I was able to fix my mindset and forgive the levity as a bit of escapism in a time of crisis. There are a lot of funny situations in this film and they are made even funnier when Jack Benny is involved in them. I loved the scenes where he meets up with Colonel Ehrhardt in particular because his interplay with Sig Ruman is priceless. I was surprised and a bit disappointed how little Carole Lombard had to do in most of the film. She has a lot of talent, but felt like just a face through much of this movie. There are a lot of funny twists and turns in To Be or Not to Be, and it kept me guessing how they would get out of their predicament. There were a couple of spots where it felt like I was missing some explanation, as if things just happened off-screen without us seeing it. I also struggled just a little bit recognizing who were the members of the acting troupe. I just didn't learn their faces well enough, I guess. To Be or Not to Be has that classic kind of comedy that I love. I always respond well to wit over the more crass stuff that makes up most of modern comedy. It didn't quite have me laughing out loud most of the time, but I got some hearty chuckles at least. I suspect if I watch it again, and have my mind right to accept a comedy about WWII, then I'll enjoy it much more.

  • May 03, 2017

    Lubitsch films are like baby oil on the brain. I adore every second. Clever. So clever. And so dramatically tense. The characters count. The stakes are high. The pay-offs are never cheap. My love is unbounded. So pleased I discovered this great writer/director. Perfection sums up the man. I've got to have more!

    Lubitsch films are like baby oil on the brain. I adore every second. Clever. So clever. And so dramatically tense. The characters count. The stakes are high. The pay-offs are never cheap. My love is unbounded. So pleased I discovered this great writer/director. Perfection sums up the man. I've got to have more!

  • Apr 10, 2017

    Very funny, but sometimes a little hard to keep track. Heil Me still makes me laugh.

    Very funny, but sometimes a little hard to keep track. Heil Me still makes me laugh.

  • Apr 09, 2017

    9.5 out of 10: Clever story, funny, well acted, and great direction makes To Be or Not To Be one crazy satire.

    9.5 out of 10: Clever story, funny, well acted, and great direction makes To Be or Not To Be one crazy satire.