- Harpo's tattoo barks at Groucho in Duck Soup
Harold Bloom once composed a short list of what he called the twentieth-century American Sublime. It included Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, the story of Byron the light bulb in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, songs by Bud Powell and Charlie Parker, and, amongst a few others, the war scene that concludes Duck Soup.
I've always loved how Bloom is willing to pick very narrow and specific passages or segments of longer works in this list. Increasingly I find that art grabs me in these little moments. This is not always true, of course. A work like Blood Meridian overpowers with its totality. But often it is brief bits of brilliance in a work that I return to again and again. (At our old Gigantic blog, we explained our magazine's aesthetic in such fragments... although here I see I broke even Blood Meridian down and singled out Judge Holden's dialogue.)
But back to Duck Soup and The Marx Brothers. The war segment is indeed sublime, but my favorite moment is even briefer and even more surreal. From 0:33 to 0:47 in the following clip: