Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Movies For When You Can't Stand To Watch Anymore Christmas Movies #2 The Bishop's Wife

(On a sidenote you have to love that tag line. Only in marketing can they take a movie as purely innocent as this one and smuttily turn in a leering tagline that suggests Cary Grant is fucking a Bishop's wife.)

The line between sincerity and sappiness can be perilously thin, and The Bishop’s Wife walks it perfectly. Though the story of an angel who is sent by God to teach a Bishop to stop being such an jerk to his family sounds like the kind of thing that might actually kill any diabetics that happen to be watching, it doesn’t do credit to the tone of melancholy and sophistication the movie actually presents.

Sure it’s a little corny it’s the story of an Angel sent to teach someone a very special lesson fer Christ sakes (If you want to see how bad it could have been try watching the remake, a ghoulish Whitney Houston Vanity Project, I say try because no one has succeeded yet). But the tone is closer to Wings Of Desire then It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s a fine example of Hollywood craft at its very best bolstered by performances by some of the most charming human beings ever to grace God’s green earth.

The film stars David Niven as the titular Bishop, whose trying to raise funds for a new Cathedrial, while dealing with finicky backers, parishners, and the demands of his family, after praying for a way to raise the money for his serious house on a serious earth, he’s visited by Cary Grant proof of the divine if there ever was, who ends up gently falling for Niven’s wife and just as gently letting her go. There’s no huge master plot to The Bishop’s Wife no false crisis to drum up the tension, it’s all quite low key, playing off the inherent charm of its actors to carry it through. It’s a wistful movie, filled with some surprisingly heady ruminations on the pleasures of being mortal, and the difficulties of faith. But I’m making the film sound like a chore when its really as true a cinematic pleasure as I know. A charming, moving, dryly funny, adult film, with a nice anti materialistic message to boot (Anti consumerism at Christmas? Bah Humbug, now if you’ll excuse me I have some money changing at the temple to attend to) as comforting as a down coat on a cold winter’s afternoon.

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