HEAVEN CAN WAIT (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)

A problem with cinematic sagas—narrative films that encompass an extensive number of years, for instance, generations of a particular family—is that they are missing an essential element: transience; a sense of the passage of time. One of the causes of this outcome is that such films tend to be overproduced, leaving little space for time […]

DESIGN FOR LIVING (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)

I have never read Noel Coward’s play Design for Living or seen it performed, but I understand that Ben Hecht’s script for the film, which Ernst Lubitsch, no less, directed, retains just one of Coward’s lines, presumably at least in part because, shortly before Hollywood imposed its production code, Coward’s risqué dialogue was considered too […]

THE LOVE PARADE (Ernst Lubitsch, 1929)

Count Alfred Renard, Sylvanian consul ejected from wherever for Franklinian profligacy, marries his Queen Louise, whose advisors fear her perpetual spinsterhood, but quickly chafes at her subordination of him. Isn’t the man, after all, King of his castle? Ultimately, the Queen capitulates: a distasteful resolution.      Tedious and irritating, this film from director Ernst Lubitsch, from […]

TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)

“Beginnings are always difficult.” Think of Venice as a modern Eden—except that Ernst Lubitsch sullies the image of gleaming canals at night by showing the collection of garbage by gondola. The garbage collector, a jolly sort, sings an aria—to distract himself from the stench.      In Trouble in Paradise, master thief Gaston Monesque falls for Lily […]