Remember those articles a couple of months back trumpeting Borat as the funniest movie ever made? Such are the limits of collective cultural memory these days. As grand as Borat is, it isn't even the funniest inventive, envelope-pushing feature film starring a bushy-mustached prankster allegedly from a bizarre European nation. Nope, that would be 1933's Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers' finest achievement and quite possibly the best film comedy ever made. Groucho is Rufus T. Firefly, brought in to save the crumbling country of Freedonia, where he battles a pair of bumbling spies played by Chico and Harpo. Duck Soup was directed by vastly underrated (or at least underrecognized) studio ace Leo McCarey (who also helmed comedy classics The Awful Truth and Ruggles of Red Gap), and McCarey is able to fashion the Marx Brothers' trademark gags into something that holds together beautifully instead of coming across as a bunch of stitched-together bits. And, oh, what bits! A confrontation between Groucho and Harpo around a missing bedroom mirror is as sublime as physical comedy gets. A must-see.

"Duck Soup," 6-9 p.m., Thursday, December 21st, at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens, $5


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