Trouble in Paradise

There is no Hollywood movie more insouciantly amoral than Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 Trouble in Paradise. Released in the depths of the Great Depression, Lubitsch's urbane comedy concerns a swank pair of thieves, played by Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins, who not only live together in sin but—after successfully fleecing Kay Francis' rich and equally charming widow—taxi off into the sunset utterly unrepentant. Trouble in Paradise could not have been produced after the 1934 Production Code arrived to regulate the fantasy lives of American moviegoers. Hedonism was never more nonchalant. Trouble in Paradise has none of the single-entendre tawdriness or salacious Puritanism that gives pre-Code Hollywood its carnival flavor. The film is graced with a shimmering cast, impeccably streamlined in evening clothes and impossibly clinging gowns. Hopkins' self-amused coquettishness embodies the film's sense of mischief even as the superbly slouching Francis provides a sheen of lazy sensuality. Francis has the bewitching bedroom eyes, but the sly, effervescent Hopkins is the scene stealer; she must literally sit on her hands at one point to keep from swiping Francis' jewelry. At the apex of the triangle, the stiff yet soigné Marshall, often positioned in the frame to show off his profile (or conceal his prosthetic leg), leans forward to inhale his irresistible co-stars, both of whom are experts at swooning on divans. (NR) J. HOBERMAN

Dec. 30-Jan. 5, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 31, 5 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 1, 5 p.m., 2011

 
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