working wit ha formula can be wonderful. A pull-no-punches template that allows you to cleverly re-workd and restate your themes. Ernst Lubitsch came to America with a ready made system. High class infidelity with a lot of wit and European flavor. So This is Paris is one of the most formulaic of all Lubtisch films. At first it almost appears identical to The Marriage Circle or Lady Windermere's Fan, but in this case I'd say the forumla was perfected. As if those previous two were warm ups for what would come next.
From the opening shot of the rehearsing play to the loving conclusion, Lubitsch is playing with our sensibilities. The intertitles are almost completely all verbal irony. My favorite of these being Dr. Giraud's line "Just let me lie in peace." Monty Blue plays the Dr., and at first he seems rather ill iquipped for the role. A fat face caked in layers of monster like Al Jolson makeup, he is neither the charming lethario that Andre Beranger comes across as, or a man of particular note. However towards the films conclusion, he shines brightly drunk off his ass during the Artists Ball. Beranger plays his would be rival, and he's played expertly as something of a homosexual womanizer. Sure he's a dancer, but amidst his pursuit of Mrs. Giraud we can't help but notice how flamboyantly gay he comes across on screen. Lubitsch for his part sets this up early, considering he is in the opening shot of the film, along with his wife (Lilyan Tashman). During their rehearsal he is required to pick up his wife, and has to put her down claiming she's too heavy (guaranteed for a laugh). Georgette responds by picking him up and tossing him on the bed. With this Lubitsch has shown us three things. One, Maurice is a little dainty. Two, Georgette clearly wears the pants in this relationship. Three, this film is going to be hilarious. Georgette is so flagrantly unfaithful that you know you have to be in the hands of Lubitsch.
As one would expect from a Lubitsch production, the film is very well executed. However, there are minor inconsistencies that pop up, such as when the blinds are down and suddenly open without being raised, or Mrs. Giraud finished her book despite their clearly being another 34 pages or so remaining. Likewise there is a gap in the film. Maurice agrees to come back to Mrs. Giraud to return her husband's cane (which he claims to have broken over Maurice during their fight), we see a shot of him walking across the street with cane in hand to go up to see her. This takes place during Dr. Giraud's meeting with Georgette at Cafe Moreau. However the next time we see Maurice going over, he again has the cane in his hand, and no reference is made of the supposed former visit. This betrays slightly the clever shot that leads our imagination to suspect the double infidelity.
I also can't quite figure out Mrs. Giraud. Sure she seems faithful and loving to her husband, but after the opening where she sees the shirtless Maurice through the window still dressed as an Arabian Prince we figure we're being set up early for her filandering. During his first visit, Maurice doest most of the seducing, and you suspect despite her nervousness, that she is more than ample to receive his attention. Yet when Dr. Giraud is at the Artist's Ball (where he's supposed to be in jail) Maurice comes over and is rebuked by Mrs. Giraud repeatedly. It sets up a great deal of comedy when the police come to arrest the doctor, and at the risk of scandal, Maurice (who was lying in the Dr.'s bed) has to reluctantly assume the identity. This sets up the last inconsistent flaw in the film, as he gets note left on his wife's bed saying he'll be in a sanitorium for the next three days. It gets a laugh but it makes no sense how he got it.
However this difference in Mrs. Giraud, is what makes the film succeed. Despite having a forumlaic template, the film is far from predictable. I tried calling all the shots early, and found myself disastrously confused as none of my preditions came to fruition. It keeps you guessing, and none of your predictions come out quite right. This helps the film succeed by being genuinely surprising. Overall I'd call it a resounding success as a picture, and its humor, wit, charm, and unpredictable nature are so good that I'm willing to forgive any and all flaws in consistency. Based on the films short run time, I'm not positive if the surviving print is entirely complete, which if the film was cut (as was often done) then that could easily forgive some of the gaps in the picture. However I'd call this a triumph and would view it as the best of the silent films I've seen Lubitsch make.
*So This is Paris is unavailable on DVD. My print came from a VHS copy of the film I checked out of the Harold Washington Library.