These are selected opinions of reviewers who apparently didn't enjoy this movie and make of Paris When It Sizzles (1964; Richard Quine) a guilty pleasure:
- "Paris when it stinks"
- "Beyond stupid. A waste of time. Avoid."
- "Incredible mess"
- "Give this one a pass."
- "Nothing sizzles"
- "No style or substance"
- "3/10 is being generous."
- "A big disappointment in all departments"
- "Oh dear!"
- "Paris When it Fizzles- This Sizzler A Dud"
- "One of the worst films ever"
- "Why did I buy it ? It was part of a set."
- "I gave this one ten minutes"
- "Paris when it ... SNORES!"
French story/movie-- about a writer (William Holden) that has only a few days to finish a script helped by his new assistant, typist Audrey Hepburn. A film-within-the film: any idea William has becomes the movie you're watching, even if it's crazy or developed by a drunk character.
Here are a few more quotes:
- "Makes fun of classic movies, when the film itself is not very good"
- "The script is bad"
- "At the end there are two stupid scripts: the fictional and the real one"
- "Lacks fluidity"
- "Some scenes are unimportant but really long"
Those are from an unpublished review written by...me.
Yes, I hated the film the first time I saw it. I also knew this one was Audrey's least favorite movie of her filmography and that some years later she almost didn't film Two for the road: she was done with movies that experimented with the storytelling. I had also read that William Holden was drinking heavily during the filming of this movie and had to enter an alcoholic clinic.
Everything about it was bad.
Until it wasn't.
The third time I saw this film I started watching it from a new point of view: here we had a powerful studio, Paramount, plus several stars making fun of themselves. They were all laughing at the way movies are made; showing how obvious the business in which they worked can be when it's made for commercial purposes, how superficial famous people can be...
Everything started to make sense. Audrey didn't mind the lines that made fun of her movies, like Breakfast at Tiffany's and My fair lady; William and Tony Curtis didn't mind playing parts in which, for example, they made clear how important looks are for leading actors, and how narcissist they can be. And that's awesome, it's like saying: "hey, don't take us too serious, this is all about pretending and having fun".
The dialog is filled with movie techniques cliches, exaggerated to made them obvious. And because William Holden is writing a screenplay, there are cliches from the main title to the end. I love, for example, how William describes the opening credits of his new movie, The girl who stole the Eiffel Tower:
Superimpose: ''An Alexander Meyerheim production''. Cut to the Eiffel Tower. The main title.The trumpets segue into the inevitable title song. Maybe we can get Sinatra to sing it. There follows an interminable list of other credits acknowledging the efforts of all the quote little people unquote, whom I shall graciously thank in my acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
Over the years, the audience has been conditioned to understand that when a scene fades away, like an old soldier, before their very eyes, and another scene gradually appears to take its place, a certain amount of time has elapsed.
Or what a kiss really is in the commercial movie business:
The final, earth-moving, studio-rent-paying, theatre-filling, popcorn-selling...kiss.
The list goes on and on and you actually learn something about screenwriting process.
Besides the fun provided by desconstructing a movie script, Audrey and William are a delight to watch together. Knowing about their impossible love during the filming of Sabrina, it was nice to see them working in a fictional hotel in sunny Paris. Even when Audrey didn't like the film, she called it "a joy to make". And even when William said of the first day he arrived to Paris: "I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn’t think I could handle either situation", they seem at ease and relaxed.
|With director Richard Quine.|
Despite what some reviewers have said, I think Audrey --dressed and "perfumed" by Givenchy here too-- had a great timing for comedy, I love the way she delivers her lines, and how she responded to the scenes which required physical comedy. Because everything was a parody, she exaggerated her movements, especially in the sequence where, drunk, her character starts to invent a parallel story. Vampires, horse races, aviators, everything was included in her crazy sequence, maybe the most criticized of the film. I found it hilarious.All the genres conventions are parodied in Paris When It Sizzles: detective stories, horror movies, slapstick, romance, etc etc. For example, if the next frame, a man and woman in bed, fades out...
...it obviously means...that they were playing Parcheesi!
I also loved the bits about the French New Wave, movies where, according to the screenwriter, nothing happens.
There are great cameos: Marlene Dietrich and Mel Ferrer; supporting players include Tony Curtis and Noel Coward; Frank Sinatra sings the title (literally) The girl who stole the Eiffel Tower; there's a song by Fred Astaire that introduces a tong-in-cheek dance sequence that's abruptly interrupted because this one is not a musical...Audrey aka Gaby: The picture's terribly interesting. Very avant-garde. About people who go to this party and decide not to play Scrabble. lt was called The Scrabble Game Will Not Take Place. His next one's about a girl who won't have a birthday party - Blow Out No Candles. Roger believes what's important on screen is what doesn't happen.
George Axelrod, who also wrote the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany's, included a crazy party scene here too. Although it's not as memorable as the one in B@t, it has some great moments and costumes:
Another great thing of this film is the music, although it doesn't have a great presence throughout the movie. It was composed by Nelson Riddle and I think it captures the light spirit of the film. One of the themes that stand out is Gabrielle (hear)
TCM said of this movie "Over the years, however, the film has earned a reputation as a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy in-joke movie spoofs and an absurdist storyline played out against the glorious backdrop of the City of Light".
I don't even feel guilty anymore :) In my opinion, Paris When It Sizzles was ahead of its time and therefore, underrated and a commercial failure. I think of it as an antecedent of films like Airplane! and Monty Python's movies, only classier.
So, yes, maybe this movie is a mess. But a delightful and sunny mess, if you decide to relax, give it an opportunity and go "absolutely ape" watching how these unforgettable people enjoy living.
Written for the CMBA Guilty Pleasures Movie Blogathon.Check the rest of the entries here.
PS: It's funny that writer George Axelrod provided another guilty pleasure to this blogathon :)