Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the Region 2 release of Paris When It Sizzles.
A light hearted Audrey Hepburn vehicle that ultimately strives for style over content but is still enjoyable.
Wealthy movie screenwriter Richard Benson (William Holden) has sold a premise for a script to playboy producer Alexander Meyerheim (Noel Coward) based on the title alone. Now, having not spent his writing time productively enough, Benson has three days to deliver a script to Meyerheim, despite having not written a single word. Forced into a desperate corner, Benson decides to hire some help in the form of a typist to dictate to – young beauty Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn). However, the arrival of the typist sparks further distraction for Benson, as he embarks upon a plan to contrive scenes in his script in order to woo young Gabrielle! What transpires is a sort of film-within-a-film, in which the audience is presented with the reality situation of Benson and Gabrielle writing the script, and within that situation the audience is also presented with the actual scenes as they write them.
Paris When It Sizzles starts off very well, and has potential to be a memorably chic sixties film in the same league as Hepburn’s own Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but soon falls by the wayside. The opening sequence has a lovely cameo from Noel Coward, and it doesn’t take long for the film’s visual appeal to become noticeable, mainly due to brilliant cinematographer Claude Renoir. William Holden wouldn’t usually play the lead in a Hepburn vehicle, but his casting seems to work none-the-same, and he delivers a manic energy and conviction to Richard Benson which Paris When It Sizzles relies upon. Hepburn herself seems to have carved out her own niche with regards to style of acting, and her characters appear to merge into one when looking through her filmography.
The main problem for Paris When It Sizzles is that the film is essentially a one-joke movie, in that most of the scenes the audience witnesses are just mere ideas for Benson and Gabrielle’s script. In effect, most are just visually indulgent fluff with no long-lasting merit. Director Richard Quine has great fun with this idea in the opening half of the film, but even his direction loses momentum and appears to be on autopilot in the second half. Maybe this is the fault of the film’s length, as at one hundred minutes it feels almost half an hour too long.
To be fair to the film, Paris When It Sizzles knows it limitations and doesn’t strive to be anything more than a light-hearted and enjoyable exercise in elegant sixties chic. If that type of film appeals to you, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t check it out.
Presented in anamorphic 1.77:1 widescreen, the picture has many colourful tones and is mostly lacking in dirt and grain. It certainly beats the television prints of the film, and widescreen clearly is a benefit.
Presented in the original mono, the sound is extremely disappointing, as despite sounding quite clear and audible, an abundance of hiss it noticeable, and the level of hissing fluctuates from scene to scene causing a distraction.
Menu: A static menu with some illustrations from the film as well as sixties style lettering to maintain the essence of the film.
Packaging: As this disc is also part of the Audrey Hepburn box set, it maintains the usual Paramount template whilst also including the gold lettering and style of the box set, which helps give the packaging a more grander feel.
Original Trailer: An enjoyably wacky trailer in the best early sixties way, despite the fact that the trailer doesn’t actually explain what is going on and is more of a collection of set-pieces from the film.
Paris When It Sizzles is an enjoyable Sunday matinee movie that strives for style over substance. It’s pleasant enough (and features a delightfully uncredited Tony Curtis cameo), and one to suggest when you grandmother insists on watching a film with you, despite the bare bones extras treatment and poor sound quality.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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