The Criterion Collection
As suggested by Jonathan Lethem’s brainy supplemental essay (quoting Borges filtering Kafka through Aristotle), this 1948 masterpiece of formal and tonal control is “an experiment in the guise of a romp,” more ambitious than its light touch implies. A temperamental-genius conductor, jealous about his wife’s apparent fondness for his assistant, choreographs daydreamed revenge variations to Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Wagner—and then hilariously fails to realize them. Writer-director Preston Sturges knows that what the sensitive artist dreads most are the unmet expectations of imagination, and he slyly proposes reconsidering such disappointments as blessings. Sturges’ innate musicality enables the scenario, in which slapstick has a narrative purpose, as counterpoint. The best bonus is further proof of Rex Harrison as the inspiration for evil-genius infant Stewie Griffin of Family Guy.