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Interesting look at the jazz scene in 1960s France
on 9 December 2010
Set in the racially relaxed jazz scene in Paris in the early 1960s, this bittersweet Martin Ritt film focuses on two American Jazz musicians (Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier) living and working in Paris who encounter two American girls (Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll) on vacation. Romance ensues but with complications. Shot in handsome black and white by the great French cinematographer Christian Matras (EARRINGS OF MADAME DE ..., GRAND ILLUSION), director Ritt does a good job of recreating the feverish, smoky environs of the jazz scene as well as the carefree yet intense existence of the creative expatriate. The actual romantic entanglements aren't nearly as colorful. Newman is an old hand at this kind of role, the nonconformist with a touch of the heel (HUD, THE HUSTLER) but Poitier makes for a fine contrast as the decent black man living in Europe to avoid the racism of America. The score, by Duke Ellington, is authentic. With Serge Reggiani, Barbara Laage, Marie Versini and in a rare acting role, the great Louis Armstrong whose jam session is the highlight of the film.
The British import (it's not available in the U.S. at this time) via Optimum Classics is a crisp B&W print modestly letterboxed at 1.66:1, non anamorphic.