Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #3 (FROM THE LOVE PARADE)

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2 hours ago, mjbreuer said:

1. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

The “Lubitsch Touch” is a delicate, expert display of show-don’t-tell storytelling and characterization. Instead of using dialogue (or, in the silent era, a title card), Lubitsch is able to insert drama into the scene with a few carefully placed visuals. We see the garter, the gun, and desperate tugging at the door, and are already clued in to what is going on before Chevalier dutifully announces, “Her husband.” The set design, costuming, and use of props (like the drawer filled with prop guns, suggesting this is a routine trick from Chevalier) all point to the character’s roguish charm. 

2. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.

While the use of sound and dialogue is still very much being worked out in this film (there are plenty of hiccups, including some dryly-delivered lines and some clunky, unrealistic sounds), the use of sound here adds a depth not possible in the silent era. If the sight of a gun and smoke sent audiences running in the silent Great Train Robbery, then the sound of a gunshot (particularly so early in the film) must have brought a shock and excitement to the scene. Furthermore, the casting director is able to make use of accents for the first time, as Chevalier’s thick French accent no doubt added to the romantic charm of his characters.

3. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?

As we see here, the playful romantic escapes of high society would continue to be popular with audiences in the 1930s musical. We see similar costuming and comedy/romance blending in the other films pairing Chevalier and MacDonald, as well as in the popular Astaire-Rogers films. People in the midst of the Depression likes the escape of seeing the carefree, romantic, and high society life.

 

**Although it comes on the heels of Jolson’s famous, “Wait a minute...” in The Jazz Singer, the fourth wall breaks here can’t help but feel ahead of their time. Lubitsch carefully uses the break for the sake of character development, as Chevalier’s break of the fourth wall establishes a playful tone that accentuates his roguishness. This works much in the same way that we come to love Ferris Bueller through his endearing fourth wall breaks, understand Michael Caune’s title character in Alfie, or feel uncomfortable by Haneke’s breaking of the wall in Funny Games. Having the first line spoken directly to the audience invests us in Chevalier’s story and endears him to the viewer.

I thought so too! It's establishing a film language like prose narratives: first person elements that help us see from the character's point of view and establish sympathy. 

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1. It is characterized by a humour with a sexy, erotic touch. In that clip, this touch is emphasized by the woman showing her legs and underwear. Alfred's exagerrated mannerisms reveal much of the theatricality that is a trademark in the actors from early movie musicals. 

2. Two moments attracted my attention: first, when they are talking to each other, the muffled sound indicates that their voices are coming from inside the bedroom; and second, the gun sound, which is absolutely fake, and that's the reason why the scene is so fun, because the husband really believes his wife is dead. 

3. Making fun of the wealthy lifestyle was much in vogue during those economically tough times. 

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Others have mentioned the garters and guns as the specific props which inform us about Alfred's character.  The collection of guns in the drawer was telling.  All were rather small, delicate and feminine, which may very well indicate one for each woman he has seduced.  If that is the correct reading, they signify notches on a bedpost or names in a little black book indicating sexual conquests.  By the way, Garters and Guns would be a great name for band.

The sound editing was magnificent for the era.  The gunshot was well done, but I was particularly impressed with the chatter that we heard when Alfred opened the door near the end of the scene.  The chatter commences once he opens the door and then ends when he closes the door. That sound editing was mighty impressive considering how recent the introduction of sound was.  

 

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1.    What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

Lubitsch presents Alfred as a confident Don Juan type of character. So confident that he does not mind sharing this embarrassing situation with the audience. A lot of this scene seams to evolve from a silent film treatment since the main sounds we hear are the gun shots and all the French dialogue which we can't understand but can easily imagine.  Alfred seams to know what is going on because he does not react to the woman shooting herself.  Further, he puts the gun away later in a drawer full of guns like he knows it belongs there.  These things and the handling of the zipper all indicate Alfred is much more familiar and at home in the ladies room than her husband.

2.    Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. The gun shot sound grabs are attention as a shock...what has she done.  But because Alfred does not react we begin to suspect something is a-miss.  Another sound is the door handles rattling.  Some one wants in and they are not knocking.  Again to exaggerate the point we see a lot of movement of the door handles and Alfred tells us directly that its the husband trying to get in. Alfred's unlikely explanations to the audience are humorously validated to us by our imagining of the content of the French dialogue.    

What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?  The scene is an opulent apartment with expensive furniture and appointments showing the extravagances of this woman and her husband.  However is being also enjoyed who is some lover level military attaché from Sylvania.  The characters are elegantly dressed as well.  Alfred behaves in an particularly comic manner under the circumstances.  Its not until his superior arrives that any serious element is added. These themes tend to divert people in the depression from their personal plight.

 

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What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

The pearl handled pistol and then the segue to drawer full of them - this guy has been around. The husband cannot fix the zipper on the dress so she goes to the Count to get the job done - obviously he is the more competent male and surely in more ways than one. He is impeccably dressed - he even had sharp creases in the coat sleeve. Window fabrics are lush - we are in a world of opulence.


Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.

The scene begins offstage behind a closed door with a muffled argument in French. Who doesn’t want to know what is going on behind that door? Maurice steps into the room and with that one comment (in English) the situation is apparent. The English emphasizes his aside to the audience and separates him emotionally from the disturbance.  This is all in a day’s work for an international playboy. I love that the whole melodrama played out in French. It camps it up.

What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?

In this scene we see the silly lifestyle of a rich, important man. This fellow requires reforming and fast or someday the gun will be loaded. He needs to become emotionally engaged.

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The Lubitsch touch is visual storytelling, which allows the audience to see what is going on. Alfred is speaking very fast in some scenes, and it might be because he is panicky or afraid. The female character has a drawer on revolvers and she turns one of them on herself because she has been caught cheating on her husband, but she was just "playing dead." The scene's sound uses Alfred's dialogue, which is translated from French to English and he is speaking rapidly. There are low violin chords in the background, which suggests a suspenseful scene and makes the audience wonder what is going to happen next. The themes and approaches of the scene are light-hearted, comical, and at times suspenseful.

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12 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:
  • What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?
  • Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.
  • What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?

1. I know Lubitsch was European and his movies had a European sensibility so characters actually speaking a foreign language works very well. He has another woman's gaters, drawer full of guns (presumably from other husbands), he stands confidently when the husband comes in and doesn't shy away. You get the impression he has been in this situation (a husband catching him with his wife). He has a disarming smile and a cute blink/nose scrunch when the husband turns to him as he zips Paulette's dress suggesting charm and irreverence. Not mocking him but sort of teasing him about the situation.

2. The first thing I noticed was Maurice and Paulette ( I don't know the actresses name) were speaking French and the first English word Chevalier says is "husband". You know know the relationship between the man and woman is illicit. This seemed significant that no matter what Alfred and Paulette said to eachother (I don't speak French) what matters is that there is an angry husband on the other side of the door. The banging on the doors signified urgency. Maybe he knows the extent of Paulette and Alfred's relationship and is finally fed up. The sound that stood out to me was the pop of the gun. It was a pop and didn't sound like a blast (I suppose because it was a small) which suggested a playfulness about the whole encounter between the husband, his wife and her lover. Paulette shoots herself but doesn't die. Later on, the husband shoots at Alfred. Neither Paulette nor Alfred are injured/killed and Maurice does funny movements trying to find the bullet through his tux. None of this is serious eventhough, in real life, it would be. 

3. The European setting definitely. Paris is glamorous, exotic (to middle class American audiences) and sexily playful apparently.You get the feeling anything can and does happen in Paris involving sex and relationships but its all in good fun. The clothing everyone wears is formal, hair is glossy and slick, Paulette wears a lovely dress with a sting of pearls. Alfred's boss carries a top hat and cane.  The movie world suggest escapism in terms of liberal attitudes towards sexuality for perhaps conservative audiences wishing the culture were more like France but also a degree of wealth since its presumed everybody is wealthy since they dress like it. 

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This clip obviously portrays the transition between silent and sound films and the impact that transition has on both actors/actresses and directors.  The obvious stilted and sometimes exaggerated action are made more obvious when the viewer attempts to make the same transition.  The comedy of the clip made have been lost on men in the audience who may have fallen victim to a handsome lover in contrast to the rather boorish appearing husband.   Unfortunately, I may not have appreciated this clip and most assuredly not the movie since I have never been a fan of Maurice Chevalier.

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  1. The Lubitsch touch was his Brand given by studio PR.  Today everyone stresses brand. Lubitsch was noted for wit, charm, and nonchalance. The elegant use of the joke you do not expect and another that follows. In the clip, when she gets the gun, you expect her to shoot her husband.  He is infuriated and she is going to protect herself.  Instead, she shoots herself.  Does Alfred (Maurice Chevalier) run to her side, no he stands there nonchalant.  The husband's rage about his wife turns to love and the rage is moved to Alfred, who you feel is callous about his lover on the ground. Alfred does not balk or run when the gun is pointed at him, he is shot at,  and even helps the husband check the gun.  When the husband realizes that his wife is alive and not hurt he forgets about her having an affair and Alfred nonchalantly walks to the drawer where you see other dud guns and you know Alfred knew about these all along. The joke is on the husband who has forgotten everything, who accepts being yelled at by her about the dress and you know she will have more affairs.  Alfred is a gentleman who will continue his playboy ways, may even see her again or that may be too much drama for him or maybe he is getting bored of her.  As a playboy there are always other women.     
  2. The sound of the gunshot.  You do not see it and you think that she has shot her husband but are taken aback when she is on the ground.  The dialogue is fast paced from loving to anger to sympathy to belittlement and to acceptance.  Alfred is exceptionally blasé throughout, like a boy getting his hands caught in the cookie jar.  The silence between the husband and Alfred is better than having dialogue.
  3. What themes or approaches for Depression era musicals, as was said in today's lecture, is escapism and bringing laughter to the everyday population to forget their hardships for a short time.  Visually to see the beauty and elegance, even though everyone was rich you could laugh at their clumsiness and the wit.  Of course there is always the happy ending in fantasy.

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Chevalier is charming elegance to the nth degree. Especially when he took out that flowing handkerchief to cool himself down. And his having all those tiny guns (unloaded) for the many women in his life so they could be dramatic without harm.

A theme I see that would amuse the depression audience: the casual "romances" the wealthy have without fear of consequences. That is for sure as alien to their lives as the clothes and jewelry and opulent apartments shown.

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I noticed in this scene that the guns and the garter are used to portray the main character's womanizing ways. We can see from the main character's reactions to the dialogue, reaction to the gunshot, and attempts to rezip the dress that he is not taking being caught seriously. The loud gunshots contrasted with the lack of physical reaction, which was funny. With so much dialogue in French, the acting reminded me of a silent film. When the main character breaks the fourth wall it is similar to silent movies when they put the narration in words between scenes (I recall what that is called). Again, in this depression era clip i notice the themes of wealth, love, and womanizing men.

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1. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

The props, dialogue, and staging portray Chevalier as a playboy type. He also seemed very smooth; especially how he leaned up against the door frame in the beginning. 

2. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.

The sounds were pure to my ear. For people that were used to silent movies, this must have been a real treat to hear actual sounds instead of just words popping up on the screen like *boom*. 

3. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?

I would anticipate the movie to be similar to others of the decade; beautifully vast sets and a plot line that focuses on the more well-to-do class. I would also expect the classic plot line of boy meets girl, boy and girl have a connection, boy loses girl, boy sings song or makes grand gesture and gets girl. 

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What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

The director's use of of these tools helps us to not only get a sense of Alfred's character as a playboy, but also adds comedy, tension and some misdirection to the opening scene. Most of the dialogue in the scene is in French, so an audience that isn't versed in that language doesn't know what the characters are arguing about until the garter is revealed to us. I love the turn near the end of the scene when Alfred puts the little pistol in his drawer, revealing all the other little pistols, giving us the idea that this is not the first time this scene has been played out in this room and setting Alfred's playboy nature firmly in our minds, even before the Ambassador admonishes him.

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There were a few things I noticed about this scene's use of sound. In the beginning of the scene they were arguing behind a closed door. It was very muffled and it took me a few seconds to realize it was in French. I worried that the sound quality wasn't going to be good. But once the door opened the quality improved greatly. The sound of the gunshots made me giggle because they weren't very realistic. (I was surprised that she was shown taking her own life-even though that's not what actually happened.) The only other time I noticed the sound was when he opened a door and heard voices of a crowd and decided not to go further. I imagined a crowd of people just on the other side being encouraged to talk excitedly to create that effect.

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I found this clip very entertaining "with a subtle blend of sexy humor and sly wit".  The scene establishes the main character as an affluent, charming, player with questionable morals but in a light-hearted way.  The garter, pistol, relationship with a married woman, in a different movie would have ended in tragedy.  Lubitsch literally takes all the elements of what usually ends very badly into an opportunity, presumably, at a chance for true love/happy ending.

Prior to sound technology the gunshot would not have been heard only imagined.  When the angry husband fires the gun, we hear the shot, and nothing happens, unlike when his wife went to the floor.  At that point we assume blank gun, wife OK too, but certainly the sound of the gun added intensity/surprise to the scene.

If you can begin a movie with infidelity and violence and construct a light hearted comedy musical, you can do anything including light hearted themes for the depression era. 

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Two things I noticed about the Love Parade clip was 1) The residue of silent filmmaking that permeated this clip and 2) how much Lubitsch relied on visuals instead of dialogue to make his comedic points.

Regarding the first point, I could imagine a title card used in silent filmmaking announcing the arrival of the "Husband" into the scene.  Instead, of a title card, Chevalier looks straight into the camera to announce the unexpected guest.

Regarding the second point, there were several visual gags (reminiscent of silent filmmaking) that added to the comedic flare of the clip.  When the husband shoots Chevalier with blanks, Chevalier is deadpan in response.  In fact, the comedy is heightened when Chevalier helps the husband (his potential killer) with the gun.  Apparently, this has happened before when Chevalier places the gun in a desk drawer full of guns (another visual pun).

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What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?
I appreciated the less than subtle visual cues. Watching these early films makes me think about how often we use superfluous words to explain things. With just a few visuals, we understand the characters and circumstances. The props and dialogue help (break the fourth wall, the guns, the garter - as other have mentioned). But I was drawn to the facial expressions. Chevalier gives a great smirk in his close up. And the close up of the woman, when we realize the gun was not loaded, told me everything I needed to know about her. That eye-roll was masterful. I laughed out loud. The situation was serious in its staging, but it serves as another hint that this will be a comedy.

Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.
I am a musician and the first thing I hear and notice is the use of music to enhance the mood and storytelling. I didn't realize that film composers knew how to do this at this stage of filmmaking. Were bits of music added in a post-production setting? I appreciated that it started out without underscoring and the minute the danger stepped into the scene, the music came in and reflected that. You get the sense that something sinister or dangerous could happen as soon as the husband walks through the door. It's different than musical underscoring in a scene where there is dancing or a song is about to start. 
 

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1.     What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)?

First, I noticed a carryover of some silent film techniques in this clip.  More specifically, I noticed the close-ups on the garter, the handbag and gun, and the contents of the drawer.  Granted, more contemporary films also include similar close-ups.  But too often, today’s “innovative” directors create a more frenetic pace, by not focusing on any image for more than 2-3 seconds.  In earlier films, more specifically silent films, directors and actors needed to tell the story by focusing on props that played a key role in a scene and by conveying the story through actions and facial expressions.  All of these elements were at work in this scene, especially with Chevalier displaying his cavalier attitude while addressing the audience, while arguing with his mistress, and when confronting her jealous husband.  I was also reminded of some of Hitchcock’s earlier films with the camera shot of the people in the street as they react to the gunshots.  Chevalier also displays his cavalier attitude about his behavior and affairs when he reacts to being “shot” with great animation and when he zips up his mistress’s dress.  He is very smug when he looks at her husband while zipping the dress as if to say he knows his wife better—and more intimately—than her own husband does.

2.     Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness.

Similar to a silent film, the characters are using quite a bit of dialogue, which the audience might not understand or “hear,” unless they speak French.  However, like a silent film, the audience does not necessarily need to understand the dialogue because the ideas are very evident through the props and characters’ actions.  The audience is introduced immediately to the conflict and tension as we hear the characters arguing behind closed doors, setting what we assume will be a serious tone, until Lubitsch introduces the juxtaposition of humor with the tension of the gunshots, the apparent suicide, and the failed homicide.  And despite the tension between Chevalier and his mistress and his mistress and her husband, the mood is lightened with the dialogue.  Alfred has engaged in similar acts in the past and he will continue to do so, despite his plea that the stories of his past are exaggerated.

3.     What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals?

It seems that directors and writers at the time wanted to keep the mood light, despite some more serious elements in a storyline, at least in this film with the affair, the confrontation, and the assumed suicide.  Despite these elements, the scene ends on a positive note and there is an under lying current of humor throughout the entire scene.  As was the case with the film clips from Rose Marie, it seems that this film addressed a double standard present at that time, and still present to some degree even today.  It seemed acceptable for men to objectify women, viewing them as cast away conquests.  But this film also seems to fit the notion that people during that era went to the theater to seek a brief respite from their otherwise harsh lives, living vicariously through the characters they aspired to be living lives they wished they had, instead of being reminded of the harsh realities beyond the darkened theater and images that offered them hope.

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1. One of the images that struck us the most was when Alfred opens the drawer and puts the gun in and there are several other guns already in the drawer. In that way, I noticed that the Lubitsch touch is much more about visual humor or suggestion than verbal, as there was very little dialogue or noise in the clip. This visual suggestion was also shown with Albert holding the garter and the woman needing her dress zipped up.

 

2. I found it fascinating that there was so little dialogue in the clip, and there was also barely any background music. The one line of dialogue that really stuck out to me is when Albert does break that fourth wall, telling the audience that "She's terribly jealous." I think this line adds to the scene's effectiveness because it makes it clear from the outset that this is supposed to be comedic. Otherwise, the scene would have been incredibly dramatic, but that quick line makes it funny and ensures that the audience knows it is supposed to be.

 

3. I might anticipate to see the theme of portraying a dramatic situation in a light way in other Depression-era musicals. The situation in the scene is certainly dramatic, and would fit well in a drama, but it is handled in a light and comedic way, which continues to provide that escapism that movies served during the Depression. 

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I think this movie showcases the charming 'rouge' personality that Chevalier portrayed so well over the years. I was amused to see the calm look on his face as he added the pistol to his collection of past conquests and as madame walks over to him for help in fastening her dress.

Sound is almost an extra in this scene. It enhances the action but was not really necessary. I look forward to watching the film in its entirety. 

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I haven't watched a Lubitsch picture before, so this was my first encounter, and at first glance the Lubitsch Touch reminded me of modern director Wes Anderson, whom I adore. The subtle and sly glances, the close ups held on small objects, and the lingering hold of an emotion or facial expression to emote a comedic reaction to what potentially could be a very serious situation all are used in Wes Anderson pictures today, which I now see that the Lubitsch Touch is being used in his films. I will have to find and watch more of Lubitsch's work in the future.

The props, dialogue, and staging all assist with progressing the story and character development in this scene. Everything is well thought out and utilized to further the overall story, everything we see has a purpose for being there. Through this careful placement of props, dialogue, and staging, even in this short scene, we are able to infer a great deal about Maurice Chevalier's character and where this story is headed.

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1)  The props tell the story as they would in silent film. The garter not belonging to the married lover tell us that Alfred is a roue. The pistol and later drawer full tells us that his sexual philandering is rampant. 

2) The most striking use of sound was in the opening long shot of the door and the muffled conversation behind it that exploded once the door opened. Another, the silence of the butler when the Sylvanian official arrived. Both brilliant!

3) "Forget your troubles come on get happy"...themes of unfathomable wealth, carefree existence and no accountability are the overarching themes of the films of this era.

 

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First of all, I recorded this last night since I have to work and I can't wait to watch it this evening. Knowing Maurice Chevalier from other films, I was not surprised that he is the "womanizer" that he appears to be in this film clip. The staging of the cut to Chevalier then to the wronged husband, added a suspenseful humor often seen in silent films. The gun shots were unexpected then turned humorous when you realized that blanks were used to fool the wronged husband. When Chevalier added this gun to his drawer of guns, you realize this is not his first time in the rodeo. I am looking forward to watching the complete film.?

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The clip makes me wish I was able to watch the entire movie.  As I've said elsewhere, I'm a fan of Chevalier's.  The visual humour makes me chuckle, though I can understand much of the French dialogue (not sure if this is a good or a bad thing in this case). 

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1. From what I can gather, the Lubitsch Touch is mainly about relaying information without any vocal exposition, relying entirely on scenery and body language. Here we see Chevalier's lady friend produce a garter, then quickly pulling up her dress to reveal that she still has both of her garters on (this was definitely a pre-Code film). We didn't even need to hear Chevalier's sly fourth wall-breaking line to know that "she's terribly jealous;" that few seconds of garter gazing told the audience all they needed to know. The Lubitsch Touch goes even further to show just what kind of character Chevalier is playing; when the Count confiscates the lady's pistol, he puts it in a drawer chock-full of guns, implying that he's gone through this exact scenario with loads of other women. The man certainly knows his way around the fairer sex, being able to zip up the lady's dress when her husband cannot. It all comes together to form our perception of the Count: a loveable, roguish Casanova.

2. The scene, for the most part, is very quiet. The only sounds we hear are arguing in French (which non-French speakers like me can only assume is about illicit affairs), and the occasional blank being fired from a gun. Without any music, we are left to focus entirely on the exchange between the actors. This is a very effective technique, but I feel like the scene could still benefit from the addition of music, other than the dramatic string cues we hear when the husband angrily confronts the Count.

3. A common facet I've been seeing in the clips of this week is the love triangle. Ziegfeld and Billings vying for Anna Held, Nelson Eddy showing off his singing ability to get Jeanette MacDonald's attention away from an Italian tenor, and now Chevalier and a French aristocrat having a zip-up match over a woman scorned. In all of these, it seems the handsome, witty protagonist always has the upper hand, confounding the competition and winning over the lady in some way or another. The love triangle is such an old trope, but the Hollywood musical appeared to be obsessed with it. I wouldn't be surprised if such things happen in Top Hat or The Gay Divorcee. Guess I'll have to find out tomorrow!

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