Heaven Can Wait Screen 11 articles

Heaven Can Wait

1943

Heaven Can Wait Poster
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    The New Republic: Manny Farber
    August 30, 1943 | Farber on Film (p. 99)

    ...Academic as all these incidents are they are made even more so by being visualized with the zest of the Dormouse. That is, to get the camera off ten or fifteen feet, to center the people square and at eye level and then watch them discourse.

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    The Nation: James Agee
    September 04, 1943 | Agee on Film (p. 32)

    Heaven Can Wait is not up to [Lubitsch's] best. Nothing has been, for nearly twenty years. Its real matrix, for that matter, is the sort of smirking, "civilized," Central European puff paste with which the Theater Guild used to claim to bring vitality to the American stage. But it looks like a jewel against the wood-silk and cellophane which passes for a moving picture now that Hollywood has come of age.

  • Ernst Lubitsch’s only completed film in Technicolor, and the greatest of his late films... In many respects, this is Lubitsch’s testament, full of grace, wisdom, and romance.

  • It might be nothing more than the life story of a man who did not amount to much, as Lubitsch claimed, but it is also nothing less. Heaven Can Wait brilliantly maintains the exquisite balance between tragic and comic impulses, between shifting views of man as an individual and man as an element of society, that marks Lubitsch’s best work.

  • What makes this movie as sophisticated and challenging as it was in 1943 is Lubitsch and Raphaelson's thrillingly adult view of marriage. It's not the Pecksniffian view of adultery rampaging through every editorial page circa 1998, but the wry, Continental take that says I have been faithful, in my fashion. Couples and the remnants of couples swirl through the movie, pursuing all sorts of marriages in all sorts of ways.

  • ...In this scene, the very pivot of Henry and Martha's lives, Lubitsch depicts, comically, a moment that could as easily play out as family tragedy. A daring defiance of convention and propriety, a marriage undertaken on mere moment's acquaintance in the face of family opposition. The decisive moment is sparked by a sneeze. Viewers familiar with Lubitsch's films will recognize the Freudian touch. One irrepressible physical urge standing in for another.

  • ...The gap between image and sound, between vision and understanding, between the present moment of joy and the coming moment of bereavement: utterly devastating to this innocent, teenage cinephile! But also revelatory of a truly magical art: the art of ellipsis. Lubitsch transcends death by eliding it, leaping over it, tucking it inside the discrepancy between the dance we see and the voice we hear.

  • A resounding success, a period film that feels eternally modern, and one of Lubitsch’s warmest and most enchanting features... Ameche has a curl in his lips, and both have irresistible rounded cheeks. This seems effortlessly Ameche’s finest performance, brought out by Lubitsch’s delicate directorial touch, and there is not a single misfire from the cast.

  • The screenplay is by Samson Raphaelson, and it's tight as a drum — a perfect three-act structure, with jokes so sly as to seem subversive. This is a movie to listen to closely, but watch it just as intently. Lubitsch's staging of the long stretches of dialogue seems straightforward enough, but the physical path from A to Z in a given scene turns out to be extraordinarily complex — once you start to notice — and so virtuosic you may want to applaud.

  • Setting aside his usual corkscrew plotting to survey a life from start to finish, Lubitsch finds in the procession of life milestones one showcase after another for the graceful economy of his expression.

  • It’s felicitous, with HEAVEN CAN WAIT serving as a sort-of microcosm for his career, representing a gradual maturation from ribald preoccupations to contentment vis-à-vis settled domesticity... Above and beyond these accolades, or even the fact that his version of hell is so Lubitschian that it’s more endearing than it could possibly be foreboding, is the indefinable feeling that only a Lubitsch film can evoke—HEAVEN CAN WAIT does a devil of a job arousing it.

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