Lubitsch talks. Not for the first time (there were the rhyming couplets of The Love Parade and One Hour with You, and there was Broken Lullaby). With Trouble in Paradise, however, Lubitsch asks for everything words can bring to his sophisticated view of cinema and the world. Smooth, polished words by Samson Raphaelson (a legendary partnership), which we have to listen to quickly and cooperatively, letting the echo of every innuendo deposit its exciting thrill or its melancholic ashes on the destinies we are left to imagine. There’s always an erotic promise lingering in the air, just glimpsed or postponed or already lost: “You know what you’re missing?” asks Herbert Marshall, the unmasked high society thief, as he’s definitely leaving; Kay Francis sadly nods, and certainly she’s not thinking about the innocent waltzes Jeannette MacDonald could still have dreamed of; “No… That’s what you’re missing”, he replies even more sadly, pulling from his pocket the long pearl necklace that he has just snatched. A comedy of words with an aphoristic flair reminiscent of Wilde (the importance of being Ernst…?) dissolved into the flow of dialogue, Trouble in Paradise is also a triumph of the self-sufficient image. The fading hands of a clock, the click of a turning key. A mirror reflects a clandestine embrace, two shadows pull closer on the white satin of a bed. Oversized, dizzying interiors, a déco plein air by which set designer Hans Dreier set the rules for sophisticated comedy, which others would later apply without achieving or even attempting the same degree of conceptual abstraction. Absolutely modern, this pre-Code comedy with double entendres and three-way games (a reissue of the film three years later didn’t pass the Code check) knows no twilight rhetoric (lost happiness, unpicked roses). Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall’s reciprocal pickpocketing, the playful game that opens and closes the film, is Lubitsch’s only concession to romance: “the irresistible mingling between eroticism and theft” (Guido Fink), the allusion to how, in or out of paradise, stealing from each other is one of the fundamental strategies of love. Of course something is left behind; just a shadow, a longing, a perfumed trail (and Kay Francis, more beautiful than Miriam Hopkins, is as beautiful as a ghost can be). But the game can undoubtedly start over, even if: “As for pure style I think I have done nothing better or as good as Trouble in Paradise” (Ernst Lubitsch).
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dalla pièce The Honest Finder di László Aladár. Scen.: Samson Raphaelson. F.: Victor Milner. Scgf.: Hans Dreier. Mus.: W. Franke Harling. Int.: Miriam Hopkins (Lily), Kay Francis (Mariette Colet), Herbert Marshall (Gaston ‘LaValle’ Monescu), Charlie Ruggles (il maggiore), Edward Everett Horton (François Fileba), C. Aubrey Smit (Adolphe J. Giron), Robert Greig (Jacques). Prod.: Ernst Lubitsch per Paramount. 35mm. D.: 81’. Bn
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