Lubitsch knew that any attempt to appropriate Wilde's language in his intertitles would result only in stillborn cinema. The film instead is filled with visual and temporal analogues to its source: meaningful glances that can be multiply decrypted; overflowing sexual longings compressed into a twitch of an eyebrow, the curl of a haircut; cataclysmic social faux-pas outlined in mysterious chiaroscuro.
Lady Windermere’s Fan may be the best silent made by Ernst Lubitsch, who has appeared on these lists before. It arguably ranks alongside Trouble in Paradise and The Shop around the Corner as one of the best films of his entire career. It’s a loose adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play, but it’s pure Lubitsch throughout.