Monday, October 28, 2013


A bit of roundabout communication from D'arrast's Laughter (1930). The continental flavor and penchant for spicy intimation here have led some, in the small pile of writing I've been able find on the film, to invoke Lubitsch, which seems I suppose as perfectly reasonable a starting point as any in situating this rich, forgotten Paramount item. Likely not enough of D'arrasts's scant output circulates in any capacity today to parse out any kind of full bodied "touch", but to my eyes the real heart of the film pumping beneath Donald Ogden Stewart's screenplay (one of his earliest, and it's a hoot; some acid religious sarcasm or class barb pounce out from every corner) is a physical, jubilant discursiveness that feels very much the product of a distinct sensibility: a potentially awkward situation early in the film is diffused by Frederic March banging out some jazzy number on a piano, opening the door for Nancy Carroll and Diane Ellis to launch into surely one of the most manic of all precode dance numbers; later on Carroll and March break into a home to avoid a rainstorm, and their mounting sexual tension naturally leads to them dressing in bearskin rugs and engaging in a bear battle. Narratively these tangents feel justified in their illustrations of the allure of the bohemian temperament (the source of the title), but the effect is of viewing a group of characters who continually seize any opening to wriggle free from the sway of plot and give into some primal impulse.

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