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Trouble in Paradise
Trouble in Paradise is two parts romantic comedy, one part social commentary, and three shakes of fun all rolled into one. The movie was released over 70 years ago and is considered a classic by famed director Ernst Lubitsch. I first saw the movie years ago in a run down theatre and believe me, Criterion must've made a deal with the devil to get such a clean print of this movie for the dvd. The dvd box tells us:
"When thief Gaston Monescu meets his true love in pick pocket Lily, they embark on a scam to rob lovely perfume company executive Mariette Colet. But when Gaston becomes romantically entangled with Mme. Golet, their larcenous ruse is jeopardized and Gaston is forced to choose between two beautiful women. Legendary director Ernst Lubitsch's masterful touch is in full flower in Trouble In Paradise, a pinnacle of the sophisticated romantic comedy, loaded with sparkling dialogue, witty innuendo and elegant comic invention."
Video: Presented in it's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the picture was very crisp and clear, especially for it's age. Sure, there were minor scratches on the film print and other signs that the movie was not made last year but that's to be expected. The good news is that Criterion went all out to tidy the picture up and it makes a world of difference to those who study the intricacies of directors like Lubitsch who have a reason for every single prop, camera angle, and factor observed in a scene.
Audio: The audio was similarly cleaned up and presented in the original monaural soundtrack. I've heard far worse audio tracks from much more recent movies and it's also to Criterion's credit that they cleaned this up as well as possible too.
Extra's: Presenting unique and value adding extra's to such an old movie is probably not the easiest task in the world. Luckily, Criterion didn't drop the ball here either. The wealth of extras include an audio commentary by Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman (who wrote the book, Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter In Paradise). Mr. Eyman focused primarily on the technical aspects of the movie but ventured into other aspects surrounding the movie as well. Had he included more on the historical context of the movie as well as pointed out how so many of the issues affecting the movie were still around today, I'd have no problems with his otherwise well done job.
Next up was the video introduction by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who clearly admires Lubitsch's works. There was also a series of written tributes by a variety of important director's that showed several insights into how much the man shaped Hollywood.
The last two extras were really interesting. They included Ernst Lubitsch's Silent Film Das fidele Gefängnis (The Merry Jail, 1917), with Emil Jannings, featuring a new score recorded exclusively for this release, and a 1940 Screen Guild Theater radio program featuring Ernst Lubitsch, Jack Benny, Claudette Colbert, and Basil Rathbone. The movie was a delight in itself and showed a great deal of humor which was surprisingly timeless in many aspects. The radio show offered yet another glimpse into Lubitsch.
Final Thoughts: The movie is a classic and Criterion can be credited once more for bringing an important film to a larger audience. There was so much going on that every time I watched it, I took something else away from the viewing. That many of the social issues the movie addressed, either openly or not, are still with us is a testament to the quality of the movie. Love, money and social standing were all on the menu here and I look forward to seeing other works of Lubitsch released by Criterion if they are going to put in such an effort. Fans of older cinema releases should consider this a must have but even casual movie goers will like this one.