This love triangle between Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas isn’t necessarily the best film Ernst Lubitsch ever made. But it is wonderfully representative because - the wit, the worldliness, the casual elegance – this is where Lubitsch turns it up to eleven. He dissects such things as love and marriage and (in particular) romance, and all this with an adult, slightly dry, seemingly unfussy, almost blunt sensibility. He analyses them casually, but to the core.
And yet, despite the bluntness, despite the sharp, unwavering, somewhat confronting insight, there is something intoxicating about Lubitsch’s company (not to mention, Dietrich’s, Marshall’s and Douglas’). It’s hard to say if it’s the sex, or the elegance, or the fact that all of the characters are so thoroughly at ease with the triple-entendres and jaw-dropping interiors. Whatever it is, the film leaves you with a singular feeling: you greet the credits clear-headed, yet dewy-eyed; demonstrably wiser, yet in reverie.
Labels: *****, 1937, criminally neglected, Ernst Lubitsch, Herbert Marshall, Marlene Dietrich, masterclass in directing, Melvyn Douglas, screwball, the canon