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Touble in Paradise: The Criterion Collection

After world-famous gentleman thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) pulls off a cat burglary in Venice, he sets his sights on a young, well-to-do woman named Lily (Miriam Hopkins), who also turns out to be a thief. Immediately falling in love/lust, the two spend the next year together. But after a failed heist, Gaston rests in France and ends up at the opera stealing the purse of a rich perfume magnate's widow, Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). And it's Madame Colet's large reward that draws Gaston to her again, but when he comes to collect it he ends up getting a job as her secretary, which has as much to with his business skills as it does the fact that she is a widow and is more interested in him than her two suitors. The two competing gentlemen are the older incommunicative Major (Charlie Ruggles), and Francois Filiba (Edward Everett Horton), another boring old man who — unfortunately — Gaston robbed the day he met Lily. Working for Colet offers Gaston a chance at a large lump of cash, but Colet seems more interested in getting him in bed. Knowing that his identity might be revealed at any moment, Gaston must protect himself, but he is so drawn to the charms of the Madame that he might be willing to stay. Though over 70 years old and labeled a classic, make no mistake — 1932's Trouble in Paradise is a masterpiece that feels as modern as if it were made yesterday. Perhaps it's because the film is all about sex; characters allude to sex and sexual promiscuity at every turn. The wordplay (by favored Lubitsch scenarist Samson Raphaelson) is exquisite, with right amount of sophistication and sass mixed in with the double entendres, while director Lubitsch is of the school of "invisible director" that feel they do their job best if the audience doesn't notice them at all. Here there are only a few moments where one is made aware of the director's hand, and they are at the service of the story. But what makes Ernst Lubitsch's proto-screwball movie so special is that there is so much sophistication in his look at animalistic desire. Criterion's DVD release of Trouble in Paradise presents the film in full-frame (1.33:1) and the original monaural audio (DD 1.0). Accompanying the film is an audio commentary by Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman, a Video Introduction with Peter Bogdanovich (10:44), the 1917 short film "Das Fidele Gefangnis" (in English "The Merry Jail," running 47:56), which is accompanied by a newly made and recorded score by Aljosepha Zimmerman. Also included is a 1940 Screen Guild Theater radio program featuring Lubitsch, along with Jack Benny, Claudette Colbert, and Basil Rathbone, and a still-gallery featuring quotes from older directors (Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, Jean Renoir, and Charles Chaplin) and recent admirers (Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson, Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert, among others). And, as with all Criterion releases, handy liner notes accompany the disc, written here by Armond White and Enno Patalas. Keep-case.
—DSH

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