Daily Archives: January 3, 2003

On Guard

On the basis of his earliest features, French filmmaker Philippe de Broca was sometimes regarded as a member of the New Wave, but subsequent films such as Cartouche (1962) and That Man From Rio (1964) showed him to be an adept commercial director. This entertaining 1998 swashbuckler, based on Paul Feval’s 1857 novel Le bossu (The Hunchback) and shot in ‘Scope, proves that de Broca hasn’t lost his touch. This is effective as straight-ahead, action-packed storytelling, losing some of its energy only in the final stretch of its 128 minutes. The cast is especially good, including Daniel Auteuil as the peripatetic hero (an acrobat-turned-chevalier-turned-actor), Fabrice Luchini as the villain, and Vincent Perez, Marie Gillain, and Philippe Noiret. It’s a pity that the distributors didn’t stick to the original title, that of the novel, and substituted the graceless and unnecessary English translation of a French fencing term. In French with subtitles. (JR)… Read more »

Remember Last Night?

A screwball comedy and murder mystery in the Thin Man mode, directed by James Whale, who’s never been properly appreciated for the wit and the engaging minor characters found in some of his nonhorror features. Along with The Great Garrick, this 1935 release is one of the best of that neglected batch; its sheer goofiness helps explain why critic Tom Milne once compared Whale to Jean-Luc Godard. With Robert Young, Constance Cummings, Edward Arnold (as the detective), and Edward Brophy. 81 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films by Ernst Lubitsch

This week the Film Center launches a retrospective of Ernst Lubitsch’s Hollywood pictures with two of his finest: The Love Parade and Trouble in Paradise (many would add Ninotchka, also playing this week, but not me, even though it has Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas). The Love Parade (1929, 110 min.), Lubitsch’s first talkie and musical, helped to define continental romance as well as opulent operetta for Depression-era audiences. Racy and innovatively shot, it pairs Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald for the first time, and it’s one of their funniest films, with some of the best laughs coming from secondary leads Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane. Trouble in Paradise (1932, 83 min.), about a pair of jewel thieves (Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins) exploiting the owner of a French perfume company (Kay Francis), is one of the wittiest and most glamorous romantic comedies ever made and has as much to say about the Depression as any Busby Berkeley number. Unfortunately the series omits the underrated and atypical The Man I Killed (aka Broken Lullaby), but otherwise all of Lubitsch’s essential Hollywood pictures are showing this month; they virtually defined Hollywood entertainment when the term still meant something other than explosions and hard-sell advertising.… Read more »