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Paris Blues

Paris Blues

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Paris Blues. Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook are two expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris where, unlike the U.S. at the time, jazz musicians are celebrated, and racism is a non-issue. When they meet and fall in love with two young American girls, Lillian and Connie, who are vacationing in France, Ram and Eddie must decide whether they should move back to the U.S. with them or stay in Paris for the freedom it allows them. Ram, who wants to be a serious composer, finds Paris too exciting and is reluctant to give up his music for a relationship, and Eddie wants to stay for the city’s more tolerant racial atmosphere.

Joanne Woodward at Her Very Best

Paris Blues, What a great movie. Joanne Woodward is at her very best. She is the star, the player that makes this movie happen, the actress whose performance raises this movie from merely good to great. Far from being corny, this movie offers a powerful, coherent and plausible story about people who meet, form intense attachments and then must make decisions that will effect their relationships and their lives. The movie has a tremendous all-star cast, with Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll and Louis Armstrong, in addition to Ms. Woodward, and a great setting, Paris circa early 1960s, minus the tourists. This movie grabs and keeps one’s interest as the characters meet, interact, and reveal their innermost thoughts, and does do in a straightforward manner that is neither corny nor trite. This movie is wonderful.

For starters, this is one of those rare movies that would not have been as good if it had been shot in colour. B&W somehow fits the mood, the story and the setting. Yet it’s not really a sad or dark story. As in many older B&W films, the lighting is magnificent with highlights and shadows and textures that simply aren’t workable in colour. The performances are universally superb. The script is free of the usual clichés. And the music is great. (How could you possibly make a bad movie with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier and Diane Carrol?) Nor, in that era (1961), did Hollywood zoom in and linger obsessively on sexual acrobatics. This is a mature, sexy film without any graphic sex. Those were the rules back then and this film is the better for them. A thoroughly enjoyable movie with a great cast that has stood the test of a half century very well indeed.

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