For its time, a socially forward film on gender roles
"Is Lucyna a Girl?" is an old Polish cross-dressing comedy from 1934. A feisty young woman (Lucyna) comes back to Poland from Paris with an engineering degree and a sense of feminist liberation. She returns to Poland and decides to work in her father's factory, but in a mechanical job traditionally for men. To prove herself, she dresses as a man and things are going well until she falls in love with her superior. After that, it's a comedy of cross-dressing and awkward situations. For a good portion of the film, it follows standard cross-dressing formulas for comedy, with guys awkwardly reacting to having feelings for another guy, or girls hitting on Lucyna when she's in drag. Still, I was a bit shocked that in a 1934 film there was not only a girl on "guy" kiss (actual girl on girl), but also a guy on "guy" kiss (actual guy on girl). The movie doesn't chastise Lucyna for dressing as a man, so in terms of social implications of the movie, it was pretty impressively progressive. Of course, stereotypes of social mores crop up during the film, but the second-class treatment of women actually isn't as rigid as you'd expect. For example, Lucyna as a woman is in complete control of her plentitude of suitors.
In terms of comedic value, there's a bit of sitcom-like over-expression, but that's an artifact of the days of early sound film when everyone overdid facial expressions. There's a bunch of word plays peppered throughout the film that still are funny and translate well into English.
In terms of cinematic value, I was surprised that the fourth wall was broken a few times in the film. I didn't think that happened much before the 1950s, but maybe it was more commonplace in comedies. There are two scenes involving mirrors that are pretty well done: the first has a nice doubling effect between Lucyna and her masculine persona, while the second was completely unexpected and I'm not sure how they achieved it with the technology at the time. This film has some qualities that set it ahead of its time. Unfortunately, from a modern perspective these qualities have become very standard, which can make the film feel very dated. It's better if you keep in mind the social context. 8/10.
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