In the ’30s and ’40s, urban sophisticate Ernst Lubitsch turned a corner of the Paramount lot into Old Europe for his masterful romantic comedies Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or Not to Be. Those snappy-banter movies have an unexpected and delicate poignancy, for the great director wasn’t just making entertainment, but memorializing a civilized way of life on the verge of destruction. Born in Berlin, Lubitsch was one of the premier German directors of the silent era before he emigrated to Hollywood, and it had to hurt him deeply that his countrymen were playing the part of rampaging barbarians. In the series Rare Silent Films by Ernst Lubitsch, a different side of the director is on view with Sumurun (1920), a flamboyant, fantastical adaptation of the Arabian Nights story of a concubine parlaying her sheik’s jealousy over a dancer (the great Pola Negri) into her own freedom. Negri returns on April 21 for the series-closing Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat), playing the willful daughter of the head of a bandit gang.
Sumurun screens at 7 p.m.
Tue., April 14, 7 p.m.; Tue., April 21, 7 p.m., 2009