It’s been a while since my last Ernst Lubitsch film, but man, did he ever crank up the pre-Code shenanigans with this one. The Love Parade seemed to be a film that existed for the sole purpose of flagrantly dissing the Hays Code before it was fully enacted, as well as an excuse for its stars, screenwriter, and especially director to have as much smarmy fun as they could on the silver screen. More than anything, this film seemed to exist merely for its own sake, an inevitability in the wake of the Hays Code’s upcoming implementation. That’s not to say that the film wasn’t enjoyable, because it was, mostly because the people behind it knew what they were doing as well as how to keep themselves from overdoing it. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like this was another example of people getting together just to make a film for the sake of making one, as opposed to filmmakers getting together eagerly to make sure a great film is made from the sheer passion for the material.
Maurice Chevalier is Count Alfred, one of the officers assigned to the (fictional) Sylvanian Embassy in Paris, who at the start of the film is ordered to return to the country after being discovered having an affair with a higher-up official’s wife, one of the many affairs he’s been having. Upon his return, he appears before the country’s young and unwed Queen Louise, who is amused by Alfred’s actions instead of appalled, and after a lively discussion with the man, decides to “punish” him by marrying him and thus taking him as her royal consort. Things would seem to be headed to a happily ever after… only the film at this point is only halfway over; the rest deals with the ramifications of Alfred’s decision to marry, as well as subverting certain tropes that films much like this one tend to employ to surprisingly amusing effect. I should say, I knew when I started the film that it was a musical, at least of sorts, but when the film started by immediately cutting into a butler singing a song while setting a table, I was still slightly taken aback. Even the first actual song had me questioning whether I was going to enjoy the film as a whole at all… at least, until the part of the song that had the dogs of Paris singing to each other, which I had to admit was clever and quaint. And that’s when I realized that, even though this was an early sound era musical, it was still an Ernst Lubitsch film, and that would seem to supersede the negative aspects of the film’s musical genetics. For instance, the characters of the film tend to break the fourth wall if the situation calls for a good quip or an address of the audience, and as many storytelling tropes that it falls victim to, it also subverts just as many. It was well-written also, even if it still seemed like the writers were doing so arbitrarily. There was a distinct sense that the film knew how funny it was, or at least was supposed to be, but it never felt like it was snidely looking down on the audience or expecting them to laugh with stern looks if they didn’t; it channeled how funny it was expected to be into a charming production that ended up genuinely amusing at many moments. Jeanette MacDonald did feel a little miscast as the queen of a country, even a young one, but she certainly wasn’t miscast as the love interest of Chevalier; the two definitely have chemistry together, at least when given a script like this one.
I wasn’t as taken with this as I had expected to be when the film really got going, mostly because of the second half of the film, which seems to go down a very unpleasant route unbecoming of the film up to that point, and then the ending, which made up for the troubles of the second half somewhat, but it didn’t feel completely earnest and wholehearted. Still, I was surprised by this, and I was pleased that this second odyssey of mine would in fact be able to have a few surprises for me like this one, especially so early into the chronology. In all fairness, I pretty much had to take a point off for the somewhat abrupt shift in mood and tone the film opts to do halfway through, even if it did so in order to make a point about gender relations (a point some have seen as undermined by the ending, but I saw as merely the two opposing ideologies coming together mutually before irreparable damage could be done). Even so, one could certainly do worse than a film like this, even with it being technically a musical, so there’s that.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10