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Ernst Lubitsch's American Comedy

Format: Hardback
Publisher: Columbia University Press, New York, United States
Published: 15th Nov 1983
Dimensions: w 153mm h 278mm
Weight: 650g
ISBN-10: 023105680X
ISBN-13: 9780231056809
Barcode No: 9780231056809

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Kirkus US
"Most critical writing on Lubitsch has trivialized his art in the name of praising it," begins film-teacher Paul (MIT). And, in this unsurprisingly auteur-ish study (the dedication is to "Andy and Molly," with Sarris providing a foreword), Paul works hard to present comic-master Lubitsch as a "serious dramatist" - whose theme shifted from "extreme individualism" to "a concern for the workings of a social group as a whole." An opening chapter briefly (rather too briefly) covers Lubitsch's many pre-1932 films, finding them all more or less concerned with "the conflict between individual desire and the dictates of society"; there's also a concise discussion of the famed Lubitsch style - oblique, with a "conjunction of metaphor and irony." The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to close-up analysis of nine post-1932 Lubitsch films, tracing that thematic transition. Trouble in Paradise and Design for Living still display an "anarchic-individualist" spirit, but for the first time Lubitsch deals with "a recognizable contemporary reality." In The Merry Widow, too, there remains a "predominantly negative view of the dominant social order." But, while irony and skepticism never disappear from Lubitsch's work, his characters now start finding positive relationships with the social order. And "where the social groups in Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be Or Not To Be extended the individual beyond himself in the present moment, the concern for family in Heaven Can Wait and Cluny Brown serves to extend the individual beyond himself in time." Like most such treatments, Paul's view of Lubitsch-as-dramatist occasionally seems strained. But, with considerable attention to style and commercial pressures (Paul emphasizes the trend-following aspect of late Lubitsch), this is a reasonably balanced, strongly argued antidote to the "pastry chef" view of Lubitsch - not too academic, even if lacking in spirit and humor. (Kirkus Reviews)