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USA 1961
Directed by
Martin Ritt
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Paris Blues

Martin Ritt’s film starts with the opening credits lain over every lifestyle stereotype from crazy beatniks dudes to colour-miscegenated and homosexual couples as Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier pretend to blow hot licks in a Parisian boîte  - it’s excruciating and the bad news is that is doesn’t get any better. Well, there is one scene in which Louis Armstrong turns up with his band and plays some real jazz but for the rest the film is excruciating ersatz on every level..

Newman plays trombonist Ram Bowen (!!!  Rimbaud, get it? Who thought up this gem?) who has dedicated his life to the jazz muse whilst Poitier is his sax player and arranger, Eddie Cook, who is mainly in Paris to be free of the racism back home, Then a couple of American tourists (Diahann Carroll and Joanne Woodward) turn up and in due course the two men find themselves forced to choose between their love of music or their love of the dames.

There is little good to be said of the film which is essentially a typical Stateside '50s drama shoehorned into a jazz setting – as a jazz film, bar Armstrong and Ellington’s score, it is never remotely convincing and as a drama it is a bumbles along like a lame duck, with the attempt to give the romance a social conscience twist with the racism theme completely banal albeit probably appearing more radical in its day than now.




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