Archive for Paris

Paris Blues

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook are two expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris where, unlike the US at the time, Jazz musicians are celebrated and racism is a non-issue. When they meet and fall in love with two young American girls, Lillian and Connie, who are vacationing in France, Ram and Eddie must decide whether they should move back to the US with them, or stay in Paris for the freedom it allows them. Ram, who wants to be a serious composer, finds Paris too exciting and is reluctant to give up his music for a relationship, and Eddie wants to stay for the city’s more tolerant racial atmosphere.

What people are saying:

“Despite how square this movie about hepcats seems — if only from the admittedly unfair vantage point of more than five decades on — expressions of raw emotion stir Paris Blues to life.” 4 stars

“An interesting cinematic mis-step, the movie is of note for getting these three great actors in one movie — and for capturing images of a Paris at a transitionary time in its post war history.” 3 stars

“Martin Ritt directs Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musician American ex-pats living in Paris. How could a film with that set-up not be great! Newman and Poitier fall for the pretty tourists Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll. Take all that and add in an amazing Duke Ellington score and you’ve got an incredibly cool film.” 4 stars

“You’ve got Newman and Woodward and Poitier and Diahann Carroll, you’ve got a great soundtrack by *the* Duke Ellington–throw in Louis Armstrong as “Mad Man Moore” and you’re pretty much set. It would’ve been nice for Poitier and Carroll to have had more screen time because their story (she wants to return to the US to fight for civil rights, but he likes the fact that Paris doesn’t marginalize him as a black man) is genuinely interesting and they have a great chemistry. But all in all it’s a solid film with solid acting.” 3 1/2 stars

“This films certainly has all the pieces; Newman, Poitier, Woodward in their prime, with a score by Duke Ellington and a Paris setting, the only thing missing is a strong story. It follows budding romance, but doesn’t really go anywhere…that being said, it’s still worth watching to see these fine actors work and hear the excellent score. Give it a try!” 3 1/2 stars

Last Tango in Paris

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on January 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Paul, a middle-aged American hotel owner mourning his wife’s suicide, meets a young, engaged Parisian woman named Jeanne in an apartment that both are interested in renting. They proceed to have an anonymous sexual relationship in the apartment, and Paul demands that neither of them share any personal information, not even their names. The affair goes on until one day Jeanne comes to the apartment to find that Paul has packed up and left without warning.

Paul later meets Jeanne on the street and says he wants to renew the relationship. He tells her of the recent tragedy with his wife, and the telling of his life story carries them to a tango bar, where he continues telling her about himself. The loss of anonymity disillusions Jeanne about their relationship, and she tells Paul she does not want to see him again. Paul, not wanting to let Jeanne go, chases her back to her apartment, where he tells her he loves her and wants to know her name.

Jeanne takes a gun from a drawer. She tells Paul her name and shoots him. Paul staggers out onto the balcony, mortally wounded, and collapses. As Paul dies, a dazed Jeanne mutters to herself that he was just a stranger who tried to rape her, that she did not know who he was, as if in a rehearsal, preparing herself for questioning by the police.

REVIEW:

As a budding cinephile, it has been brought to my attention that I need to step out of my comfort zone and check out some films that every good (or bad) reviewer should see. First up is Last Tango in Paris, a films starring Marlon Brando that received an NC-17 rating, which it might still keep today, but not for the same reasons.

What is this about?

An American expatriate living in Paris is still reeling from his estranged wife’s suicide. While searching for an apartment, he encounters an equally despondent Frenchwoman, and the couple embarks on an anonymous, no-strings-attached sexual liaison.

What did I like?

Underbelly. The other day, I was having a discussion about The Simpsons. For those of you that were around in the early days, you may remember the episode when Bart is a foreign exchange student and ends up at a wine farm, a far cry from the France he was expecting. That same idea is what one gets watching this film. There is nothing glamorous about the Paris of this film. Come to think of it, I don’t believe they show any landmarks. As much as I love the tourist views we get, it was nice to see the other side for once, and it set the gritty tone for the film.

NC-17. In my opening paragraph, I mentioned that the rating for this film was NC-17 and that it may keep that rating if this was released today, but not for the same reason. Well, the reasons it was given that rating when it was released was because of “sexual explicit content”. I would like to see the original X-rated version of this, though.  Truth be told, this content isn’t so explicit. Today, it would the full frontal hairy bush and all the smoking that would garner that rating. I still don’t get how smoking can affect a rating, but whatever. There are some odd things that do so. For me, though, such raw content is a contrast to the artsy feel of this film, very similar to Monster’s Ball.

Tango with Brando. Marlon Brando was one of the world’s finest actors. I believe this was released a couple of years before The Godfather films, but I don’t know the exact years. Brando’s acting chops seem to have been forgotten in the wake of sexual controversy that surrounds this film. Damn shame, really. On another note, the titular tango scene, which does not include either of our leads, is pretty entertaining. Maybe it is all these years of watching Dancing with the Stars, but I was wanting to see more of the tango.

What didn’t I like?

Starting line. Brando’s character’s wife has committed suicide before the film starts and this serves as the motivation for his character. Now, I know how I would be if I experienced such a loss. I wouldn’t want to feel anything. Does that mean I’d go around picking up any chick I come across in town? No, but different strokes for different folks. My issue with this suicide angle is that they brought it up now and then to develop the character and then, after what seems like a few weeks, we see the body of the wife laying in repose in the apartment. It is almost implied that she’s always been there, which is quite odd, if you ask me.

French tickler. This is going to make me sound totally uncultured and uneducated, but the subtitles of this film were too much reading. Yes, this is a film made in France by an Italian director, but for some reason, I suppose I was hoping for more English, even though Paris is in the title.

Shove it. There is a scene where Marlon Brando tells his chick to stick a finger up his butthole and then he says something along the lines of her having sex with a pig. For those that are into this kind of thing, it may have been a treat to see/hear in a major Academy award nominated picture. However, for many of us, this was a little uneasy to watch. I can imagine it was meant to be hot and sexy at the time, but didn’t really come off that way to me.

There is no doubt that Last Tango in Paris is a great film. The problem with it is that is too artsy fartsy for my taste. There are elements of this film that are intriguing and interesting. There are moments of sexiness that will lend themselves to the rewind button, as well. In the end, though, this is just a flick that was made more for the Academy, as opposed to the audience. That being said, if you were to ask me whether or not you should watch this, I’m going to say that this is a film you need to watch at least once, so check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

Funny Face

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is a fashion magazine publisher and editor, for Quality magazine, who is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look for the magazine. Maggie wants the look to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. She and famous fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) want models who can “think as well as they look.” The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to find a “sinister” looking book store in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. They subsequently locate a bookstore named “Embryo Concepts”.

Maggie and Dick take over Embryo Concepts, which is being run by the shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo thinks the fashion and modeling industry is nonsense, saying: “it is chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie decides to use Jo in the first fashion shot, to give it a more intellectual look. After the first shot Maggie locks Jo out of the shop to shut her up.

Jo wants more than anything else in the world to go to Paris and attend the famous philosopher and professor Emile Flostre’s (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the dark room, he sees something in Jo’s face which is “new” and “fresh”, and which would be perfect for the campaign, giving it “character”, “spirit”, and “intelligence”.

They send for Jo, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She is outraged and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes very interested in that she would get a chance to see Professor Flostre, and is finally convinced to model.

Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various photo shoots Jo and Dick develop feelings for each other, and they fall in love.

One night when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Professor Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually Dick finds her and they get into an argument at the gala’s opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Professor Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into Flostre’s home. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre’s disciples, they confront Jo and Flostre. This eventually leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave. When Flostre wakes up, he tries to make a pass at Jo. Shocked at the behavior of her “idol”, she smashes a vase over his head and runs out.

Before the group leaves for home, there is a final fashion show. Jo and Maggie try to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Jo does the runway show and before her wedding gown finale, she looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on, take off. Heartbroken, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns that Jo bashed him on the head with a vase. Dick, realizing how much he cares, goes back to find Jo. He goes back to the runway show, only to find that Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after a long search, Dick finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little church where they shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. They embrace and kiss

REVIEW:

 One of the most romantic musical comedies to ever grace the stage and screen, and yet this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. Was I impressed, not really, but that is more to do with overhype than a knock on this film.

Funny Face is another vehicle for the immortal Fred Astaire to show off his fancy dancing skills and for audiences to stare in awe of Audrey Hepburn’s timeless beauty.

As with every other musical I’ve watched, the most important thing to ask is are the song’s memorable. Well, with a predominantly Gershwin score, one would think so. However, even in 1957, this wasn’t good enough for Hollywood, and they just had to add stuff in. Ironically, the added songs are the least memorable.

Any film that features Fred Astaire is sure to have at least one breathtaking dance sequence, and this is no exception. I do wish we would have gotten more, though.

As far as the acting goes, it is a bit up and down. Kathryn Hepburn is great, but she seems a bit out of her element. I can’t really tell why. Maybe she was just intimidated by being the presence of Astaire.

Speaking of Astaire, as great a performer as he is, I sort of felt he was too old for this role. It kid of had that creepy old man hitting on the school girl vibe.

The story is great, but then if it wasn’t would this be such a memorable play and musical?

Funny Face is a feel-good film. Is it the best musical? No, but it is surely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of both musicals and classic cinema. I wish this would have been a bit more faithful to the Broadway show, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? This is definitely a must-see for everyone, so go see it!

4 out of 5 stars

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Posted in Comedy, Disney, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie opens in 1482 Paris with Clopin (Paul Kandel), a gypsy puppeteer, telling a group of children the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (“The Bells of Notre Dame”): One night, four gypsies attempted to Enter Paris but were stopped by Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), the Minister of Justice. One gypsy woman who was carrying a bundle attempted to flee and Frollo pursued, thinking that she was carrying stolen goods. Chasing her to Notre Dame, Frollo snatches the bundle from her and kicks her, causing her to fall and hit her head against the stone steps of the cathedral. Frollo discovers that the bundle is a deformed baby and attempts to drown it in a well, but is stopped by the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers), who tells him to care for the child as repentance for killing an innocent woman. He agrees, on condition that the child will live in the cathedral. Frollo names the baby Quasimodo, meaning “half-formed”.

Twenty years later, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is shown to be the bellringer of Notre Dame. Frollo tells Quasimodo to never leave the bell tower because the people in the city will mistreat him because of his ugliness. Frollo has also lied about Quasimodo’s mother, saying that he took Quasimodo in when his mother abandoned him. Nevertheless, after Frollo departs following a visit, Quasimodo dreams of spending a day out in the world (“Out There”). Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends (Hugo (Jason Alexander), Victor (Charles Kimbrough), and Laverne (Mary Wickes)) convince him to sneak out of the cathedral, given that it was the annual Feast of Fools and everyone is in costume.

Frollo and his new captain of the guard, Phoebus (Kevin Kline), arrive to oversee the festival as Quasimodo tries to keep himself from being seen (“Topsy Turvy”). When the time comes to crown the ugliest member of the crowd as the “King of Fools”, Esmeralda (Demi Moore) drags Quasimodo onto the stage, thinking that his face is a mask. Quasimodo is crowned the King of Fools and is initially met with applause; however, the crowd turns on Quasimodo, tying him down to a wooden turntable and pelting him with produce after one of Frollo’s Guards throws a Tomato at him. Phoebus, not liking the cruelty asks permission to put a stop to it, but Frollo orders him to hold back. Esmeralda frees Quasimodo and Frollo orders her arrested for helping the hunchback. Esmeralda uses illusory tricks to disappear, and Frollo accuses her of witchcraft. After Quasimodo heads back to the cathedral, humiliated Esmeralda and her Goat Djali head in disguised as an old man.

She is caught in the cathedral, but Phoebus saves her by saying she claimed Sanctuary. The archdeacon then commands Frollo to leave out of respect for the church. Frollo leaves, warning Esmeralda that she will be arrested if she leaves the cathedral. Esmeralda, though thinking herself unworthy to offer a prayer, prays for God to protect her people and the other outcasts (“God Help the Outcasts”). Quasimodo shows her the bell tower and becomes even more infatuated with her and helps her escape. In gratitude for his kindness, she gives him a necklace with a map of Paris, with points representing Notre Dame and the Court of Miracles, the gypsy hideout. With her on his mind, he returns to his desk and carves a new figurine in the shape of Esmeralda (“Heaven’s Light”). Meanwhile, Frollo is disturbed by his own lust for Esmeralda and fears eternal damnation as a consequence (“Hellfire”).

The next day, Frollo leads a search for gypsies, burning down houses and buildings. Phoebus eventually refuses to obey Frollo’s orders and Frollo attempts to have him arrested. Phoebus steals Frollo’s horse and escapes, but is shot with an arrow as he is crossing a bridge, causing him to fall into the river below. After Quasimodo is convinced by the gargoyles that Esmeralda is romantically interested in him (“A Guy Like You”), Esmeralda brings an injured Phoebus to the bell tower, and Quasimodo sees them kiss.

Frollo returns to the cathedral just as Esmeralda leaves, and Quasimodo hides Phoebus under a table. Frollo soon notices the figurine of Esmeralda, and realizes that Quasimodo was the one who helped her escape. Frollo then tells Quasimodo of his plans to attack the Court of Miracles “at dawn with a thousand men.” After Frollo leaves, Phoebus and Quasimodo decide to work together to warn the gypsies. They manage to find the Court of Miracles by the necklace Esmeralda gave to Quasimodo, but upon arriving they are captured by Clopin and his men. Mistaking them for spies, the gypsies sentence them to death by hanging (“The Court of Miracles”). They are saved by Esmeralda and they warn them of Frollo, but Frollo and his soldiers arrive to arrest all of them, Frollo reveals that he had bluffed and had followed Quasimodo to the Court of Miracles.

The next day Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake in front of the cathedral. Quasimodo is chained up in the bell tower, but his rage upon seeing Esmeralda about to be burned enables him to break free. He rescues Esmeralda and carries her back to the cathedral, where he claims sanctuary. Frollo orders his men to break into Notre Dame, as Phoebus escapes his prison carrige he incites the crowd to revolt and they free the gypsies who help. Quasimodo also pours molten copper from above to drive the guards back, but Frollo manages to break into the cathedral, where he finds Quasimodo weeping over the unconscious Esmeralda thinking she has died. Frollo attempts to stab Quasimodo, but Quasimodo manages to seize the weapon and throw Frollo to the ground. In his rage, Quasimodo very nearly kills Frollo, but is distracted when Esmeralda wakes up. Frollo brandishes a sword, and chases them to the balconies, where he and Quasimodo begin to fight.

During the battle, Frollo reveals that Quasimodo’s mother had died trying to save his life. Quasimodo falls, but manages to pull Frollo down. Esmeralda catches hold of Quasimodo’s arm as Quasimodo loses consciousness. Frollo scrambles atop one of the (inanimate) gargoyles and raises his sword in preparation to strike at Quasimodo and Esmeralda, but the gargoyle he is standing on begins to crumble, causing him to lose his footing and plummet to his death below (briefly before the gargoyle breaks, it seems to come to life, just like Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, in order to growl at Frollo, hinting at the possibility that all of the gargoyles are living).

Esmeralda loses her grip on Quasimodo, but he is caught by Phoebus on a balcony below. Quasimodo then shows his acceptance of Esmeralda and Phoebus’s relationship. The couple then emerges from the cathedral, and Esmeralda leads Quasimodo out into the sunlight, where he is finally accepted by the citizens of Paris.

After the credits, it shows Hugo alone on top of Notre Dame, and he yells: “Goodnight everybody! Woo hoo hoo!” It then shows the Disney logo.

REVIEW:

There are some parents and naysayers who felt this film should not have been made because the source material was too violent and the film goes into some heavy topics such as lust, Christianity, etc. Personally, I found the way said topics were handled to be done very tastefully. They were mentioned, but not the central focal point of the film.

I loved the backgrounds in Beauty & the Beast.Up until I first saw this film, I thought they were some of the most breathtaking ever to be placed in an animated feature, then I saw the church of Notre Dame. Now, I’ve never been to the real thing, but from pictures I’ve seen, they really captured the beauty and mystique of the cathedral.

I was looking up some things about this film before I started this review and was surprised to find out that the gargoyles do actually do exist. I thought they were just made up for comic relief, but it turns out that they are on top of Notre Dame.

Demi Moore’s voice as Esmerelda really fits the character. Not to mention her beautiful eyes that make you wonder if they used her as a model, especially since her dance near the beginning reminds one of some of Demi’s routines in Striptease.

Tom Hulce was a surprise choice to voice Quasimodo. I mean, other than Amadeus, I don’t know much about what this guy has done. Having said that, I do think he was a good choice. He has a warmth and innocence to his voice that is quite becoming of Quasimodo.

Tony Jay’s deep voice and Kevin Kline’s heroic voice round out the case. Jay’s Judge Frollo make a villain capable of rivaling Jafar and Maleficent for best Disney villain. Kline’s Phoebus is the typical hero, nothing fancy about him, other than the fact that he was summoned from the Crusades to help Frollo round up gypsies and eventually rebels against him and ends up helping (and falling in love) with Esmerelda.

One thing I noticed about this film, aside from the insopired casting and breathtaking animation was that many of the lines resembled the heyday of Disney film such as The Aristocats, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, etc. This wasn’t throughout the whole film, at least not that I noticed, but in certain areas. It was really obvious with Phoebus, probably because of all the yellow and gold used for him, though.

The music in this film seems a bit overdone. I mean, it really feels like a musical, but the songs just don’t make you get up and dance. I mean, they’re good and all, but not the most memorable. That is really my biggest issue with this film.

Is this a film for the whole family? Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. There are some images that would be quite frightening for a younger child. Still, it is a pretty good and quite enjoyable film. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think!

4 out of 5 stars