Sunday, 16 December 2012

Paris When it Sizzles

Written by the Cinema Revisited Gals this blog reviews films covered on the Preston FM Radio Show of the same name. We’re on air every 4th Saturday from 2-4pm. If you’re outside of the Preston area you can listen on line.

Paris When it Sizzles


Noel Coward once remarked, in relation to his sexual orientation “There are still a few old ladies in Worthing who don’t know”.  For the rest of us, a film that opens with Coward salaciously playing noughts and crosses on the back of a bikini clad babe is clearly intending to remind us that actors are only acting, darling.

Set in an age when alcoholism was considered dashing and rather charming Holden (who himself struggled with addiction and entered treatment during filming) plays Richard Benson, a screenwriter with a deadline and a drink problem. He hires secretary Gabby Simpson (Hepburn) to type his (non existent) script.  The film then follows the pair as they drink, fall in love and try to write a script.  Casting themselves as the stars in the film-within-a-film, ‘The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower’, their alter egos enjoy twists, turns, drinks, false starts and switches.

Whilst the film demystifies film-making it is also, in doing so, duty bound to play by film-makings rules, which unfortunately means there are no real surprises and no real suspense. Crime, for example, can NEVER pay.  ‘Paris When it Sizzles’ delights in lightheartedly showing the wizard behind the curtain. Unfortunately, reminding the audience that this is just a movie and they’re only acting can leave the audience shuffling in their seats at some uncomfortable truths.  Holden, playing an alcoholic trying to ignite a romance with Hepburn’s character was himself an alcoholic trying to reignite his past real life romance with Hepburn.  Films like this should make the audience feel smug and clever rather than remind them of their own role as voyeurs.

Many of the cultural references are lost on modern audiences.  On the back of Burton and Taylors’ much published antics on the set of Cleopatra, the idea of “film people” living it up in Europe would be fresh in the minds of contemporary audiences. The film avoids allowing Paris itself to upstage the actors, in fact there seems little reason to set the film in Paris at all (particularly when it’s commenting very specifically on Hollywood) other than the accepted notion that Hepburn is best when playing the girl-about-capital city. 

 ‘Paris When it Sizzles’ is not a film you can watch again and again but it’s well worth watching once.  Uplifting and surprisingly modern, there is a lot to like about this film.  There are some wonderful lines delivered with casual understatement. The actors are happy to send themselves up including some impressive A list cameos. Hepburn and Holden manage to get the audience on side and you’ll find yourself rooting for them to get that script finished on time. It’s Tony Curtis who steals the show though wearing, as Cinema Revisited’s Marie remarked, “More eye make up then I do!”

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