Marx Brothers: BFI Celebrate the Evergreen Appeal
EDITOR'S PICK: The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera are among other classics enjoying a retrospective season at the BFI Southbank this month.
The brothers forged their personas in their early theatre days: Groucho the moustachioed wit; Chico the womanising dimwit; Harpo the musical mime; Zeppo, always the butt of the joke. But far from being confined by their characters, they used them as springboards to develop their freakish, almost Dadaist humour. Attempting to describe Duck Soup or A Night at the Opera in terms of plot won’t get you far – their pictures are powered not by narrative, but by a delirious hybrid comedy of satire, slapstick, absurdism, music and wordplay.
Formed in one age of recession and political turmoil, the comedy of the Marx Brothers is being resurrected by the BFI for another. This season covers eight of their finest features, ranging from their early Paramount days to their post-Zeppo incarnation for MGM. Yet economic parallels aside, the Marx Brothers have remained relevant since their heyday in the interwar years: Woody Allen cited them as a reason not to commit suicide, Queen named two albums after their films, and cult comedy shows such as South Park continue to channel their anarchic spirit. Not to be missed.