Thursday, December 28, 2006

On wonderfulness

Jim Kunstler has written a provocative piece about everyone's favourite Christmas film, It's a wonderful life (Spoiler warning: if you haven't seen the film—and you really must—then you should stop reading right now):
The main business of Bailey Building and Loan was financing the first new suburban subdivisions of the automobile age. In one of the movie's major set pieces, George Bailey opens Bailey Park, a tract of car-dependent cookie-cutter bungalows, and turns over the keys to the first house to the Italian immigrant Martini family. Had the story continued beyond 1946 into, say, the 1980s, (with George Bailey now a doddering Florida golfer), we would have seen the American landscape ravaged by suburban development, and the main street towns like Bedford Falls gutted and left for dead. That was the perverse outcome of George Bailey's good intentions. [...]

At a crucial point in the story, Clarence the guardian angel takes George Bailey on a tour of Bedford Falls as-if-George-had-never-been-born. Only the town is named Pottersville now. Main Street is lined with gin mills, strip clubs, and dance halls instead of wholesome banks, groceries, and pharmacies. (Oddly, casinos are absent, because in 1946 we lacked the vision to see how truly demoralized our nation could get.) Prostitutes ply the busy sidewalks. Now the weirdest thing is that Pottersville is depicted as a busy, bustling, lively place — the exact opposite of what main streets all over America really became, thanks to George Bailey's efforts: a wilderness of surface parking, from sea to shining sea, with WalMart waiting on the edge of every town like Moloch poised to inhale the last remaining vapors of America's morale. Frank Capra could imagine vibrant small towns turning their vibrancy in the direction of vice — but he couldn't imagine them forsaken and abandoned, with the shop fronts boarded up and the sidewalks empty, which was the true tragic destiny of all the Bedford Falls in our nation.

He's right; nonetheless, hearing the film analysed in this way is like watching someone kick your pet. Damn the man.



Blogger Little Light said...


December 28, 2006 at 10:07:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

It is important for the enjoyment of some movies to suspend disbelief and not over-analyze. Then there are some movies that should be picked apart. This is not one of those to pick apart. Interesting observations, but what a bummer!

December 29, 2006 at 9:04:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger rb said...

this year i didn't watch 'it's a wonderful life'

instead it was 'shop around the corner'

why? both seem oddly personal to me but 'shop' feels more open to ambiguity and possibilities (and hope) while 'life' has become fixed and weighty and rigid in its constraints

happy holidays udge!

December 30, 2006 at 3:57:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Pottersville always did seem like a more fun place to live. Quite different than boring quiet old Las Vegas.

December 30, 2006 at 7:08:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Antonia said...

hmmmnn everyone always tells so much about this film, but I have no seen it either ...- hence not read your post, udge, to keep the surprise :)

December 30, 2006 at 2:15:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

This is my favorite Christmas film. My second favorite is How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the real version, not the Jim Carrey movie).

The guy is right but dang it, leave my movie alone. Next he'll tromp all over another movie I love, maybe the Imposters or So I Married an Axe Murderer.

January 4, 2007 at 7:21:00 p.m. GMT+1  

Post a Comment

<< Home