Jan. 27 2010 12:00 AM

1932 comedy is full of sophisticated style

The Berlin-born Lubitsch was a master of sophisticated comedy, and “Trouble” is a superb example of his style. As Lily and Gaston begin making love on a divan, Lubitsch shows them slowly dissolving away; eventually, all we see is the bare sofa, although it doesn’t take much imagination to guess where they went.

Later on, Gaston will use his charms on widowed Parisian parfumerie owner Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). Their flirtatious conversation in her bedroom culminates in one of the movie’s most extraordinary images: the silhouettes of the couple spread across her bed.

In addition to featuring wonderfully shaded performances by Francis and Hopkins (both world-class stars at the time of the movie's release), "Paradise" is a “stellar example of a subversive modernist sensibility within Hollywood,” according to Michigan State University professor of film Justus Nieland, who’ll present “Paradise” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25 at the MSU Main Library.

“Most obviously, the film’s art direction is a masterpiece of art deco, a famous example of the mainstreaming of modernist design principles. But the film is also modernist in its fabulous sexual sophistication.

“It was made in a moment before the Hollywood Production Code (its internal censorship mechanism) became strongly enforced, and so Lubitsch and his favorite screenwriter were able to get away with much more, even as they do so by saying and showing less.

"So while the film is modern in look, and formally innovative in its clever, fluid editing and deft manipulation of sound, it is perhaps most modern in its tone — in its ironic sexual knowingness and in its honesty about the fluid relationship between sex and money.”