Trouble In Paradise


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Current Rating 8.6/10 | 5 Votes

Endlessly stylish, especially for an early talkie. Lubitsch himself noted it as a peak - "As for pure style, I have done nothing better or as good." To avoid being tied down by the limitations of early sound equipment, many of the most memorable scenes feature sound dubbed in later, allowing the camera free range, and sometimes forcing memorably innovative shots on Lubitsch. Trouble In Paradise is equally sharp when it comes to dialogue, and between the cast and the camera a kinder, gentler screwball comedy emerges, one far removed from the bitter-edged anarchy of Lubitsch's contemporaries.

Two married thieves (Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall) are moving in for robbery on Kay Francis. Francis falls in love with Marshall, he reciprocates, and both his marriage and the heist are threatened. A simple story, and though admittedly a great many frills are added, it's just a tricked-up love triangle. The reason it works, as opposed to getting bogged down in its own cliches, is because the whole cast is attuned and generally perfect. Moreover, unlike some of his champions, Lubitsch never gets bogged down in prurience - it's an unabashadly sexual tale, but not single-mindedly so.

But probably what makes Trouble In Paradise so refreshingly gentle and mild-mannered compared with other screwball comedies is that it traffics in actual human beings, not shrill caricatures. Lubitsch's thematic focus is clear - objects only have meaning in relation to their associations, not their monetary wealth. Early on, when Francis loses her handbag and offers an absurdly large reward for its return, Leonid Kinskey, in one of his first roles, gives her a hilarious chewing out in English and Russian (quoting Trotsky!), chiding her for spending so much money on a bag when so many are starving. Yet Lubitsch condemns no one - if the couple steals, the objects they steal only are rich to them in associations and memories. Don't confuse this with soft - the film is sharply comic, and fast off the mark, and yet humane. An early peak.

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