Thursday, 14 July 2011


Despite excellent films like HOMBRE and HUD, Martin Ritt is a director who is rarely mentioned by film fans today. He seems to have passed from the collective consciousness and been relegated to being a footnote in the career of Paul Newman. To be honest, PARIS BLUES is, despite many positive qualities, not one of his best films. While being perfectly acceptable in technical terms it betrays its age in many ways, admittedly this is not necessarily a minus point. The film begins with a pan across the rooftops of Paris and then dissolves into what is obviously a series of model buildings before descending into a studio created Parisian street. Now I'm not particularly against this as I'm fond of model work and well done studio sets but in this case it goes somewhat against the tone of the film and one has to ask, given that much of the film was filmed on location in Paris, why? Perhaps they couldn't find a street that looked atmospheric enough. The first view of the interior of the jazz club is wonderful parade of cliche characters - hipsters in shades, a fat lady with her toyboy, real gone kids, intellectual types, beatniks and even a very coy suggestion of homosexuality. The acting by the four principals is, as you would expect, excellent and they almost overcome the difficulties of the script. Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as the two ex-pat American jazz musicians come off best. Newman is cynical, moody and magnificent. He looks incredible - cool, confident and every inch a super star. What a great actor the man was - the camera loved him and he dominates the screen whenever he appears. Poitier, no less charismatic and talented, has to overcome the script's insistence that he is shown to be hip by having to end every sentence with the word "Man". The real life Mr.Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Diahann Carroll are fine although I never quite believed how easily the self-confessed lover of small-town USA life falls into bed with Newman's character on her first night in Paris. Carroll's character is forever reminding poor Sidney of his racial responsibilites and how he should return home to the fight for the cause. This, unfortunately, gives the film a rather dated "preachy" feel. Being about jazz musicians the subject of drugs has to turn up but here it is confined to the secondary character of the "gypsy" guitarist played by Serge Reggiani (the "introducing Serge Reggiani" betrays the Hollywood imperialism by casually wiping out the distinguished European career of this fine actor). Musically the film is treat from the musical score by Duke Ellington to the on screen apopearances by Louis Armstrong. Despite some rather jarring elements I enjoyed the film and, let's face it, the chance to see Satchmo jamming with Newman, Poitier and Reggiani is a hard one to resist. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

"Introducing"?!? Really?!?! As Murphy Brown once said: "If it's not happening to me, it doesn't matter!" So I suppose if Reggiani hadn't made any films in Hollywood before then, they don't count! Hmm.

But your description of this film (which I've never seen) seemed to remind me (VERY superficially only) of the 1962 Basil Dearen film ALL NIGHT LONG (which itself was actually a retelling of OTHELLO). It doesn't look like they share any plot similarites but something about your desription reminded me of the Dearden film (made a year later). I wonder if Dearden took any stylistic cues from the Ritt film. Not having seen it, I'm surely talking a load of old cod's whallop.