On the one hand, this was a great film, a very witty scenario comedy led by James Cagney which makes great use of its East-West Berlin setting. On the other, it is a highly unethical “apolitical” satire that pokes fun at the ideological battle between its Coca Cola exec protagonist and the nuisance communist. Not a matter of which side comes out on top (though you can be sure it’s always the devil you know…), it’s much worse: it laughs off the whole thing.
One can imagine the historical context that plays a part in the film’s intention: Wilder was clearly uncomfortable with American attitudes to the German people; likewise McCarthyism had the decade prior spread its paranoid horror. Perhaps the goal was to reduce partisanship in favour of promoting a sense of common humanity. Not so bad, except by doing away with politics it completely betrays the class struggle, with no actual representation save the fiery rants of the young communist reduced to comic clichés. You laugh at it. Do you come out of the cinema more conscious of the class system? Or has a barrier been installed whereby the next time you hear someone’s impassioned call for equality you’ll laugh, “don’t get so worked up!” What the hell were you thinking, Wilder?
One, Two, Three is an enjoyable film which is, right now, really quite harmful.