Too Slow AND Not Long Enough

Apparently the pairing of Ernst Lubitsch and Marlene Dietrich held some anticipation back in 1937. And after viewing this film, I am not surprised with the general disappointment expressed by all involved back then.

It is wonderful to listen to people talk in old movies. The assumptions about the audience are entirely different. Early on, there is an exchange between Anthony Halton, an englishman with only a very rudimentary knowledge of french, and a french cabbie. To hear that particular dialog in a modern film, there would have to be some ulterior motive, some important point the filmmakers want to make about the character's skill in language or attitude toward cabbies or the french. But here, the dialog is unencumbered by any agenda, and it's very refreshing.

But that's the appeal of old movies, and while the plot has potential here, the script seems lacking and there is little feeling of immediacy through the bulk of the film. There are some references to side plots that bolster the theme of love and fidelity, but they pass fleetingly with no real impact. It would have been interesting to have developed those, creating a more Altman-like ensemble piece.

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