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Trouble In Paradise (DVD)

An almost flawless comedy

Disc Specs

Starring Miriam HopkinsHerbert MarshallKay Francis Disc Cover
Directed By Ernst Lubitsch Certificate PG
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Visuals 4:3 Fullscreen
Running Time 82 mins
UK Release Date November 12, 2012
Genre Comedy
Our Rating
User Rating

It's probably fair to say that Ernst Lubitsch is, if not one of the great forgotten comedy directors then certainly one of the most unappreciated. In conversations about the evolution of comedy cinema he's rarely given the respect and acknowledgement he deserves as one of the pioneers of funny filmmaking in the post-silent era. Lubitsch was a German Jew who, like countless other German filmmakers, hastily relocated to the US during the 30s. He soon forged a sparkling career in Hollywood; his charming movies combined snappy scripts, often based on popular plays, with what is fast becoming a lost art: funny direction.

Displaying a comedian's understanding of comedy timing and a visual wit that reflected his apprenticeship during Berlin's golden silent age he's an obvious precursor and inspiration to the likes of Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards and Woody Allen. Nowadays when even enormously acclaimed and successful comedy directors such as Judd Apatow seem to think funny direction simply means pointing a camera at funny people, Lubitsch's delightfully stylish films seem even more perfectly crafted.

And none is more stylish or perfectly crafted than Trouble In Paradise. One of Lubitsch's first talkies, it set the tone for his future comedies and historical romances; it's a beautifully written and pleasingly whimsical farce that'll charm your socks off. It tells the story of gentleman thief and conman Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) who, after pulling off a lucrative job in Venice meets and falls in love with Lily (Miriam Hopkins) an equally capable thief. The two are blissfully happy ripping off various European bigwigs until one day at the opera they steal the purse of insanely rich widow Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis).

Realising the reward offered for handing in the purse is greater than what they'd get for flogging it, Monescu arranges to meet Colet to hand it in. With the thief unable to reign in his charms she naturally falls in love with him and hires him to be her secretary. Monescu brings Lily in as his own secretary and the pair are plotting to rob the widow blind but things are complicated by Lily's jealousy, Monescu's growing attraction to the mark and the fact that she has another suitor, Francois Filba (Edward Everett Horton), who was Monescu's target in Venice.

It's basically flawless, the kind of comedy that puts a big stupid grin on your face for the entire running time and every time you think about it for about a week after you've seen it. For a film that is 70 years old it's shockingly fast paced and there are countless laugh out loud moments peppered throughout the elegantly witty and satisfyingly sophisticated script. It's also surprisingly saucy with a whole load of innuendo and plenty of moments that you may think would be a bit too sexy for audiences in 1932.

In fact you'd be right as Trouble in Paradise was released just before the infamous Hays Code came into play in Hollywood. This pesky set of censorship rules was designed to protect the delicate sensibilities of cinemagoers but really just spoiled their fun. It certainly spoiled Lubitsch's fun as the film was blocked from being re-released and disappeared without trace for decades.

It's back now and it's brilliant so you owe it to yourself and Lubitsch to watch it and love it. It's a sparkly new transfer and this is a typically well put together Masters of Cinema release that contains one of their lovingly created illustrated booklets featuring words from Lubitsch himself. And continuing their tradition of quality not quantity when it comes to bonus features there's a long and in-depth discussion between filmmakers and critics Kent Jones and Dan Sallitt about Trouble in Paradise and Lubitsch's entire career.

Overall Verdict: A racy and hilarious romantic comedy adventure that would have blown people's minds in 1932 and is still never less than completely and delightfully entertaining.

Special Features:
Discussion with Kent Jones and Dan Sallitt.

Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon

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