Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch

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Guest - The 2016 Ernst Lubitsch Prize for best comedic performance in a German film at Babylon Kino - Berlin, Germany - Friday 29th January 2016

Ernst Lubitsch and Guest
Ernst Lubitsch and Guest
Ernst Lubitsch and Guest
Ernst Lubitsch and Patrice Bouedibela
Ernst Lubitsch and Guest
Ernst Lubitsch and Guest

Trouble In Paradise Review


Good
Cute and quaint, perfectly befitting Trouble in Paradise's 1932 origins. Ernst Lubitsch directs this little number about a conman and con-woman who together decide to swindle a wealthy woman out of her birthright. Man falls for the lady, though... will he be able to go through with it all? Well, that wouldn't be very warmhearted, would it? Seventy years later, the movie suffers from a massive number of jokes that no longer work. A couple of visual gags are still on target and the acting is swell, but on the whole the story is too simple, too flat, and too uninteresting to stand the test of time.

To Be Or Not To Be (1942) Review


Excellent
Decades before Roberto Benigni was romanticizing the Holocaust and Mel Brooks was supposedly courting Nazi controversy on Broadway, Ernst Lubitsch made To Be or Not to Be, a tart little comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland which, a few glitches aside, was all the more daring for having been made during the war itself, when its outcome was hardly certain. Unfortunately, Brooks remade the film in his own manner some 40 years afterward, substituting most of Lubitsch's wit with his brand of shtick - not as awful as it could have been, but definitely not a patch on the original.

To Be or Not to Be opens in 1939 on the eve of war, with a Warsaw theater troupe rehearsing a satire called Gestapo, which has been ordered shut down by the government, for fear of offending Hitler. The troupe's stars are Maria and Joseph Tura - a self-absorbed flirt and a preening ham who wouldn't know acting if it smacked him in the face - who couldn't be less interested in the outside world, until it comes crashing in. Maria (Carole Lombard, all smoky elegance) is carrying on an affair with handsome pilot Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack, shockingly fresh-faced and clear-voiced), while Joseph (a nimbly verbal Jack Benny) seems almost more perturbed by the fact that Sobinski walks out on his Hamlet soliloquy every night than the fact that he's doing so to meet backstage with Maria.

Continue reading: To Be Or Not To Be (1942) Review

The Shop Around The Corner Review


Excellent
Very cute and clever love/hate story, set in 1930s Budapest (for some reason), about a pair of store employees who fall in love over a pen pal correspondence, but despise each other in real life. Funny and timeless. Jimmy Stewart is fantastic.

Continue reading: The Shop Around The Corner Review

Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review


Weak
The premise at first seems quite a nice one. Henry Van Cleeve (Don Ameche, looking prematurely aged but still dapper in evening wear) comes down a staircase into a cavernous, Art Deco-inspired office where he is being interviewed by a dandy fellow referred to as His Excellency (Laird Cregar). Pretty soon it's clear Henry is actually dead, His Excellency is in fact Satan, and Henry is, for reasons that it will take the rest of the movie to explain, lobbying to be granted admission to Hades. Pressed for grievous offences or mortal sins, Henry can only say, "My whole life was one continuous misdemeanor."

Putting his lead foot first, director Ernst Lubitsch saddles his story with a script that never properly uses its complete potential. Henry feels that as part of his interview process, he must go through the story of his life, which would have generally been a decent idea, except that he led a pretty uninspiring one. Growing up in the mid-to-late 19th century, Henry is swaddled in privilege from the get-go. The scion of a wealthy family residing in a Fifth Avenue mansion, he becomes a general ne'er do well at quite a young age, something which the film (or at least his recounting) tries to blame on the effects of the women in his life (mother = too controlling, French maid = too permissive). By the time Ameche appears again as his younger self in the 1890s, his playboy ways have just been (supposedly) swept away by his having fallen in love with a beautiful woman whose name he doesn't know. Problem is, when he finally finds out the identity of the woman - Martha Strabel (Gene Tierney), of the Kansas City Strabels, who made their fortune in the meatpacking business - it turns out she's already betrothed to his stiff and deadly dull cousin Albert (Allyn Joslyn). Being of thin moral fiber anyway, Henry elopes with her. His carousing appears hard to put behind him, however, and 10 years later, Martha is ready for a divorce.

Continue reading: Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review

Ninotchka Review


Excellent
As a sex symbol, Greta Garbo may seem like an odd choice -- she lacked the drop-dead gorgeousness of subsequent Swedes like Ingrid Bergman -- but few stars have built or maintained a bigger reputation in Hollywood. A silent film star, Garbo caused a sensation when American audiences finally heard her voice ("Garbo talks!"). Ninotchka is one of Garbo's few comedies, and part of its success is because the script plays off of the actress' slightly stiff, very foreign demeanor.

Garbo plays Ninotchka, a Soviet envoy sent to Paris to sell jewels that belonged to a former Russian duchess now turned Parisian socialite (Ina Claire). Melvyn Douglas is a count who becomes infatuated with Ninotchka and tries to divert her away from her duty to the Party. It's not Casablanca -- but it's not just another frothy romantic comedy either, thanks to Garbo's performance and the clever screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett (who also co-wrote the legendary Sunset Boulevard and The Lost Weekend).

Continue reading: Ninotchka Review

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Ernst Lubitsch Movies

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Movie Review

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Movie Review

Decades before Roberto Benigni was romanticizing the Holocaust and Mel Brooks was supposedly courting Nazi...

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