Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
I’ve long maintained that in a world without Woody Allen, Albert Brooks would be the reigning king of comedy. Stanley Kubrick (yes, that Stanley Kubrick) considered Modern Romance a perfect film and while it would be foolish of anyone to argue with one of the greatest directors who ever lived, I am nothing if not a fool. Modern Romance is not a perfect film.
Defending Your Life however, is.
Defending Your Life is a brilliant comedy about a man finding the love of his life after it has ended. It’s an incredibly clever script with one of the most unique premises of a film.
After you die, your entire life is put on trial, with every decision you’ve ever made being used as evidence for or against you. Your virtues and sins ultimately being used to decide where you’ll eventually end up. In heaven or the other place. You know, New Jersey.
It’s a perfect comedy but it’s only a perfect comedy because Powell and Pressburger did the heavy lifting almost fifty years previous.
A Matter of Life and Death opens with a British pilot (David Niven) flying what was once a B-52 but what is now a flaming coffin. He’s hovering above the ocean with a broken leg and no parachute. He’s a goner but in his last moments on Earth, he decides to radio anyone who’s listening. He eventually makes contact with a ground controller, an American named June (Kim Hunter.)
They immediately fall in love.
The emotional climax of both Captain America and Wonder Woman is where this film begins and if you thought those moments were tear jearkers, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
“I love you, June. You’re life, and I’m leaving it”
After declaring his love for June, the pilot jumps from the plane and miraculously lives. He washes ashore and again miraculously and with much luck, finds June and because Niven is Niven and Hunter is Hunter (which is to say, they ain’t dogs), they fall even more madly in love.
But to quote the bard “therein lies the rub.” The pilot was supposed to die. Heaven done fucked up and now they have to fix. An emissary by the name of Conductor 71 (Maurice Goring) is sent back to fetch him. But since the pilot is now in love and refuses to go gently into that good night, he decides to bargain.
He demands a trial to prove that since he is in love, he should remain on Earth.
It’s easy to imagine what this film would be like if it were made today. The beginning would’ve been longer to make the love between the two leads more believable and the heaven sections would be more ambiguous. There is enough evidence here to support the fact that maybe this is all in his head but that theory would undermine the entire point of the film.
Love doesn’t need logic to function. It doesn’t need more build up to be believable. Love can be spontaneous, it can be instant and it could last forever.
This film is a fantasy but there’s nothing more universal than its message:
“…nothing is stronger than the law in the Universe, but on Earth nothing is stronger than Love.”