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March 8th, 2006 BECKY OHLSEN | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

He's Got The Touch

The magical films of Ernst Lubitsch grace the screen once more.

     
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Reviewing movies is turning me into a prude. It's not that I have anything against sex, mind you, in public or otherwise. But after seeing Colin Farrell's amber-lit butt cheeks endlessly thrusting away onscreen the other day—and that was merely the latest of at least a hundred uninspired love scenes—I found myself getting nostalgic for the good old days of the fadeout. Naked booty is great in real life, but I'm frankly bored of seeing it in theaters.

So you can imagine how pleased I am about the Ernst Lubitsch films showing this weekend at the NW Film Center. This guy knew how to handle romance. Born in Berlin in 1892, Lubitsch came to Hollywood in the early '20s and made his name doing silent films. He became famous for what critics called the "Lubitsch touch," a certain something no one could quite define but everyone could appreciate. It had to do with subtlety, with the sensuality barely hidden behind the innocence of the day, and the hints of melancholy underlying the goofiest moments in his films. He was, famously, the first director to make Greta Garbo laugh (in Ninotchka, 1939).

Lubitsch's first talkie was 1929's Oscar-nominated The Love Parade (7 pm Friday), starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. The lovely MacDonald rules the feminist empire of Sylvania; when Chevalier marries her, they are pronounced "wife and man," and that's his first clue to what he's in for. Like most of Lubitsch's films, The Love Parade mixes screwball comedy, romance and satire with echoes of Viennese operetta. All of which are lovingly skewed by Lubitsch's modern sensibilities and the hammy style of his actors—especially Chevalier, with his hilarious Fronch accent and constant mugging.

Another romantic satire is 1931's The Smiling Lieutenant (7 pm Saturday). Chevalier, eyelinered and leering, is a Viennese lieutenant in love with a beerhall fiddler (Claudette Colbert) but forced to marry the unglamorous princess of an unglamorous realm. There are pervy love songs about breakfast, sexy girl-on-girl makeover scenes, and innuendo beyond belief. It's sweet, sharp, funny and 10 times as exciting as Colin Farrell's butt.

The sexiest and most endearing film of the weekend is the 1932 Oscar-nominated One Hour with You (7 pm Sunday), an occasionally musical remake of Lubitsch's 1924 silent film, The Marriage Circle. Chevalier and MacDonald team up again to play the only happily married couple in Paris. When MacDonald's tarty best friend Mitsi (Genevieve Tobin) shows up, scandal and heartache ensue. Eyelids are batted, ties are untied, and misunderstandings abound, but true love wins out in the end. It's springtime, people. Butterflies, songbirds, love and the Lubitsch touch—don't miss it.


Guild Theatre, 829 SW 9th Ave., 221-1156, www.nwfilm.org. $4-$7.
 
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