For half a century at least since Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, we have come to assume that film deserves appreciation on a par with high art. And long before that, filmmakers have aspired to transcend film’s awkward dual status as art form and mass entertainment, and produce “great” art.
And yet, if the movies do nothing more than entertain, isn’t that enough? Weren’t they, in fact, “at their best and sometimes miraculous before we thought of saying ‘art’? Isn’t there something specially important in the way they are close to art, but not quite there?” (David Thomson)
Sullivan’s Travels poses just these questions in a neat and hugely entertaining way. The story of a successful Hollywood director of fluffy comedies whose yearning to make an important social drama lands him in some serious scrapes, Sullivan’s Travels came about as a result of an urge on the part of its director, Preston Sturges, “to tell some of my fellow filmwrights that they were getting a little too deep-dish and to leave the preaching to the preachers.”
US 1941 Preston Sturges 91min