Lubitsch. For this list it is best not to look at Lubitsch’s best film but the quality and consistency of authorship of his 6th, 7th, 8th best films. These are all excellent films that carried “the Lubitsch touch” which has been a term around now for 80+ some years to describe Lubitsch’s sophisticated content and direction. This far down the list of the all-time greatest auteurs it’s impressive to have two of the top 500 films (even if there isn’t a masterpiece) but, more importantly for Lubitsch’s case, it’s those 6 films that are in the top 100 of their respective decade that carry him into the top 100.
Best film: Trouble in Paradise. Simply the smoothest and wittiest of Lubtisch’s body of work.
total archiveable films: 13
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner)
top 100 films of the decade: 6 (Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, The Love Parade, Ninotchka, To Be Or Not To Be)
most overrated: To Be or Not To Be at #102 on the TSPDT would be the most overrated for me. I’ve seen it a number of times and it’s a great comedy (when Mel Brooks has parodied you, you’ve become a genre (Hitchcock, Star Wars)), I don’t see masterpiece there and I certainly don’t see formal or stylistic execution or magnificence to put in at or near the top 10.
most underrated: The only one I hesitated on was The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg. It isn’t one of the 6 films in the TSPDT top 100 from Lubitsch and it would be in mine (it’s #35 of the combined 1910’s and 1920’s top 100 for me).
gem I want to spotlight: The Shop Around the Corner. This again was remade as You’ve Got Mail. I’ll cover it in my stylistic innovations section but proof again that Lubitsch basically invented a genre- the romantic comedy. The remake isn’t a disaster- but there’s no reason to see that over this as this is one of those underrated Christmas classics, a must-see film, and surely exhibit A if you want to try to intrinsically prove that Jimmy Stewart is superior to Tom Hanks (I’m not even sure Hanks would argue with me).
stylistic innovations/traits: The Lubitsch touch was as much about content as it was about style which is why he’s all the way down at #98 and not closer to #50 or something. He was a brilliant writer- comedies of divorce, love and marriage—often with witty sexual double entendres — a trademark of Lubitsch. Sophisticated dialogue and narrative (I think someone orders a martini in every one of his films, and here the two men about to fight spend a long time explaining and discussing the gentlemanly rules) and breezy editing. Lubitsch is rightfully known for the certain lightness he brought to the material with the ineffable combination of wit, irony, sophistication and gloss. In his lifetime he was revered as an artist on par with Chaplin and like Renoir and influenced the film comedy as much as anyone. Lubitsch was a different kind of escapism in the depression era- rich, sophisticated (if not a little silly), idle rich, films. He’s always paired with Preston Sturges and I think a fair argument could be had on either side on who is superior. To me it comes down to filmography and I have Sturges’ ranked above his. Lubitsch was not as evolved visually as Woody Allen, Buster Keaton, Tati, or Wes Anderson- who are comic directors all ranked above Lubitsch.
- Trouble in Paradise
- The Shop Around the Corner
- To Be or Not To Be
- The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
- The Love Parade
- Heaven Can Wait
- Design for Living
- One Hour Without You
- The Merry Widow
By year and grades
|1927- The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg||HR|
|1929- The Love Parade||R|
|1931- The Smiling Lieutenant||R|
|1932- One Hour Without You||R|
|1932- Trouble In Paradise||MS|
|1933- Design for Living||R|
|1934- The Merry Widow||R|
|1940- The Shop Around the Corner||MS|
|1941- That Uncertain Feeling||R|
|1942- To Be or Not To Be||HR/MS|
|1943- Heaven Can Wait||R|
|1946- Cluny Brown||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives