Saturday 7 April 2007

Paris - When It Sizzles (1964) Richard Quine

Surrounded by sun, sea and beautiful girls in Cannes, movie producer Alexander Meyerheim, in the very capable form of Noel Coward, is about to launch his new production and is merely waiting for the script. This will come from Richard Benson in Paris, who unfortunately hasn't even started writing it yet because he's too busy getting drunk, sun tanned or both. He hires a secretary called Gaby Simpson to help him transfer something from his brain onto paper in the two day time limit he has left, and she turns up with a bird and the sort of class you'd expect from Audrey Hepburn. Benson is played by William Holden, reuniting the pair for the first time since Sabrina a full decade earlier.

As a comedic insight into the art of screenwriting, it's naturally a talky thing that works mostly through the brainstorming of Benson and Simpson over the typewriter, but the funniest bits are the changing visualisations of the film being written. These include cameos from people like Marlene Dietrich, Tony Curtis and the voice of Frank Sinatra on the one line of the title song. These actors speak the lines Benson is writing, so they're deliberately awful, and it's hilarious hearing Tony Curtis speak 'Like, bonjour, baby!' Unfortunately the hilarious parts are few and far between and most of it's just cute projection of the writer's id onto the screen, like an extended sketch. And like most extended sketches, it would work better without being extended.

Holden and Hepburn are fine, but somehow this exudes the feeling that it was probably far better in its original French form. As I write there are only 28 votes at IMDb for La Fête à Henriette, made twelve years earlier by French director Julien Duvivier, who also made the wonderful Pépé le Moko, but it's currently averaging an 8.5 whilst Paris - When It Sizzles with it's 1127 votes is languishing down at the 5.8 level. That's probably a little too high. Tony Curtis playing the character who plays the character of second policeman is the best thing about the movie.

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