For Reel

Trouble in Paradise (1932)
February 5, 2016, 7:22 pm
Filed under: Reviews

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
3 Stars
Trouble in ParadiseIn Trouble in Paradise, the technology of early-sound filmmaking seems to have fully caught up with director Ernst Lubitsch’s visual sensibilities, with the mise en scène noticeably more ambitious than his earlier sound films like The Love Parade or The Smiling Lieutenant. While Lubitsch’s early sound films were far from stilted, Trouble in Paradise begins to heavily utilize both fluid, sweeping camera movements (a device later mastered in films by Max Ophüls) and a deliberate use of pans that often works to reframe characters within the scene. Even devices like the famed edits in which Herbert Marshall and Kay Francis are framed within a pair of mirrors and finally as shadows on a bed draws attention to itself in a way that wasn’t so common in the earlier films. Despite the visual mastery, however, Trouble in Paradise doesn’t quite reach the level of Lubitsch’s greatest achievements. A sequence in which a series of clocks marks the ever-lengthening date of two courting lovers has a certain visual wit and elegance (this is, indeed, the Lubitsch touch), but The Love Parade had withheld a lovers’ courtship in a similar but ultimately more compelling way. Moreover, Marshall, while a welcome reprieve from Maurice Chevalier, makes one appreciate the latter’s boyish sense of perversion–Marshall is all class, but has little of the playful sex appeal that is essential to a Lubitsch film. Regardless, if the film does not soar to the heights of its reputation, it is a solid introduction to the auteur’s brilliance in that it distills many of his recurring themes regarding role-playing, sexuality, and class into their purest form.

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