A comedy masterpiece of domestic upheaval -- all the married couples have roving eyes or are restless or unhappy in some way. Marie Prevost's character is the standout -- a sly, heavily flirtatious married woman who has eyes (and conniving tricks in store) to rope in Monte Blue's doctor character, married to her supposed best friend. The entire film is a master class from Lubitsch in timing and shot selection.
To say that they don't make 'em like that anymore is so obvious as to be fatuous. But they don't. The comedic structure is as seamless and perfect as Shakespeare's. Acting superb. Vidor's elegant, passionate self-command and Prevost's manipulative, flirtatious sexuality are the core; Menjou is slimily, smoothly loathesome and Monte Blue exceptional. Lubitsch's each shot and scene maximize characterization. Superb.
Delightful! Perfectly paced, and better than Lubitsch's own talkie remake because, in an odd way, the lack of dialogue makes it easier for the characters to have ambiguous motives. The obvious plot question is why doesn't the husband just tell his wife? And the answer is that, as happily married as he is, he's truly tantalized by an alternative. Who knows—with a small rewrite, Eyes Wide Shut could have been a comedy.
I imagine the surrealists enjoyed this film. I loved the "twinning" and doubling that occurs all over the place. Great visual economy, which makes the close-ups loom large and partake of a strangeness like symbols in dreams, even as they flit easily past. The spoon tapping the egg in the egg cup and coffee cup with spoon stirring sugar verged on quasi-surrealist with Freudian "subtle entendre."
Coming from the perspective of the 'soon to be hitched' this read as a nightmare. Constant temptations in simulataneously comfortable spaces. Then again, maybe as in Afraid of Virginia the true games begin in married life. Mischievous, Circle excels in its comic stages and one revelation of loneliness, but forces the drama a bit.