First Michael Powell, now Preston Sturges … must be in a time warp: forward to the past!

Anyway, re Sturges and my previously related difficulties with his high-period, you’ll excuse the language, “comedies”—that the laughs are obvious and underlined, that the performers are like programmed robots, spewing out cookie-cutter bons mots with hardly a trace of naturalistic empathy or self-reflection (“They gave me these lines so I say ’em”—that kind of professionalized artifice by rote)—is there really any hope for such a sorry, sorry case (i.e., moi-meme), an alleged film admirer whose sense of humor’s so thoroughly skewed he can’t even understand (though in fact he can) why anyone would laugh at these critical sacred cows? What, the maestro’s pushing another button? Damn, got past me again.

Of course I could temporize, stave off ridicule by pointing out, as I already have, how wonderfully well made these movies are, their “choreographic sensibility … commedia dell’arte energy and spectacle … ‘Brueghelian’ congestion,” all that diversionary hoo-hah. But when it comes down to basics—are they funny or or are they not?—then, sorry, ladies and gents, gotta part company there.

With one notable exception. A comedy from the high period I actually find hilarious, that almost leaves me rolling on the floor. And it’s the only one—the only Sturges “classic” this confirmed Sturges hater (but I’m not! I’m not!) can feel enthusiasm for. Anyone want to guess what it is? No prizes, aside from the dubious satisfaction—or maybe it’s smirking pleasure, the controlling superiority of insight—of having got the writer’s number. Which I’m hoping won’t be that easy—quel embarras!—but you’ll probably prove that it is.

So yeah, right, like anyone’s supposed to care. But I’ll post an answer in the comments sometime next week—and I promise not to lie. Sure hope it won’t be the only comment there.