Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 comedy with James Stewart is back in cinemas for Christmas – a very different taste from the 1998 remake, You've Got Mail. Lubitsch demonstrates that romantic comedies, like popcorn, can be enjoyed salty as well as sweet. This is a sharp, elegant, unsentimental picture in which Stewart plays a character who is often gloomy and downright unsympathetic. The setting is bustling Budapest, in a smart leather-goods emporium, where Alfred (Stewart), like the other sales assistants, is nursing various shabby-genteel grievances related to status. He is offhand with co-worker Klara (Margaret Sullavan), and carrying on a romantic pen-pal correspondence with a woman he has never met. Of course, this is Klara. There is a droll moment when Alfred reveals he has written something complimentary about his boss's wife in his visitor's book, a modification of Shakespeare in which he has improbably managed to squeeze in his employer's name: Matuschek.
Peter Bradshaw is the Guardian's film critic