An Early Lubitsch Joke

Als ich tot war
R: Ernst Lubitsch. D: Ernst Lubitsch, Luise Scheurich, Helene Voss, Julius Falkenstein. M: Sabrina Hausmann / Aljoscha Zimmermann. P: Projektions-AG Union (PAGU)/ Paul Davidson. G 1915
German titles
Print: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau-Stiftung

“‘The Lubitsch Touch’ has long been the phrase used to describe the unique style and cinematic trademarks of director Ernst Lubitsch. But what exactly is ‘The Lubitsch Touch’?”

Ephraim Katz:
“The subtle humor and virtuoso visual wit in the films of Ernst Lubitsch. The style was characterized by a parsimonious compression of ideas and situations into single shots or brief scenes that provided an ironic key to the characters and to the meaning of the entire film.”

Billy Wilder:
“It was the elegant use of the Superjoke. You had a joke, and you felt satisfied, and then there was one more big joke on top of it. The joke you didn’t expect. That was the Lubitsch Touch….”

Peter Bogdanovich:
“The phrase does connote something light, strangely indefinable, yet nonetheless tangible, and seeing Lubitsch’s films – more than in almost any other director’s work – one can feel this certain spirit; not only in the tactful and impeccably appropriate placement of the camera, the subtle economy of his plotting, the oblique dialogue which had a way of saying everything through indirection, but also — and particularly — in the performance of every single player, no matter how small the role.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum:
“1) a specifically Eastern European capacity to represent the cosmopolitan sophistication of continental Europeans to Americans – and with a double edge, as becomes clear in the ‘American understood’ gag; 2) a critical affection for flawed individuals who operate according to double standards (…)”
The Lubitsch Touch