Thursday, August 13, 2015

Made in Paris

Really, we're just here for the outfits.
Costumes by Helen Rose, hair by Sidney Guilaroff

Made in Paris was released in 1966. But, frankly, aside from the fabulous hair and lovely costumes, it could have been made 10 or 20 years earlier. Especially when compared to other 1966 films like Blow-Up and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Made in Paris is a straight-up throwback to the days of Doris Day, for whom this film was originally slated. And male chauvinism. Good lord, i tend not to give much of a crap about these things, but Ann-Margret is so relentlessly patronized by everyone she comes into contact with, you kind of want to smack all of them. Her included, because she usually tolerates it and sometimes invites it..
This begins even before the credits, where Ann-Margret is on a fancy dinner date--caviar, Crepes Suzette--with a rich Ken Doll, who is apparently the son of the owner of the department store where she is an assistant buyer. He takes her home, he insists on coming in, he thinks he's entitled to some (caviar and Crepes Suzette, after all), she smacks him. The next day at work, he tries to get her in trouble with a client (She adroitly gets out of it.), is found groping one of the models (She rolls her eyes.) and generally acts like an ass.

 "Her only qualification is a good figure."
"Oh, suddenly the little girl's not so sure of herself."

But suddenly Ann-Margret discovers that the head buyer is getting married and now she's going on this season's Paris buying trip. The head buyer--a delightful broad played by Edie Adams--tries to hint that she has a rather, ah, personal relationship with one of the designers there, but then Ken Doll brings Ann-Margret a sandwich and la la la can't hear you. Because now she loves him. And he loves her. Or something.
But off to Paris and the wedding cake-like suite all buyers are apparently ensconced in. No one--not the getting-married buyer, not the (alleged) comedy-relief housekeeping staff--tells Ann-Margret about her predecessor's relationship. Because apparently her sensibilities are too delicate and the screenwriters couldn't bring themselves to have anyone speak the words "sex" or "mistress" or even "nookie." But, what do you expect? The prop department was also apparently unaware that Absinthe is green.

So Ann-Margret changes from her smashing traveling outfit to an adorable nightie. After she falls asleep, the designer, played by Louis Jordan, turns up, puts on his silk pajamas and is about to get into bed with what he thinks is Edie Adams when.... it's Ann-Margret and she is pissed. And now he is pissed. Made in Paris wants to be a bawdy bedroom farce, but nothing happens in any of the bedrooms except people getting cranky and storming out.

 Anyway, Ann-Margret and Louis Jordan make it up over one of the many fashion shows--Made in Paris is like The Women or How to Marry a Millionaire for fashion shows, complete with Euro-accented woman reading out ridiculous names and detailed descriptions--where they bond over their shared love of glamorous clothes. Jourdan drinks Champagne and makes proclamations like "I believe the woman enters the room first, then the gown." As  Mr. Diva says, "Just about the only actor in the whole mess who isn't miscast is Louis Jourdan. And that includes the City of Paris."
Remember how Ken Doll only fell for Ann-Margret after she turned him down? And she only fell for him once he was not just an arrogant, spoiled prick but an arrogant, spoiled prick who would bring her a sandwich? Well, now Ann-Margret wants Louis Jordan because he gave her the brush off and she listened to him make a date with another woman. So she recruits a pal of Ken Doll's to escort her to all the same places so she can stalk him. (This is pretty much the only part of the film i can relate to.)
I do enjoy that Ann-Margret keeps stuffing herself with fine Continental dining while some schmuck with Brylcreem in his hair tries to put the moves on her, only to be given the old... eh. Occasionally she shows some sass and some spine and tells someone to buzz off, but it's usually not so much because they've patronized or belittled her, but because they have outraged her sense of propriety and chastity. (If you want to see a chick in fabulous outfits having a wild time in Paris and regretting nothing, there's always The Scarlet Lady.)
So first Ann-Margret hated Louis Jordan, now she's hooked up with Louis Jordan. Then Ken Doll shows up. Ken Doll brags about the "thirteen hundred and twenty eight women" he's been with, but the idea of Ann-Margret having one mildly risque night with a Frenchman in Paris makes his fucking head explode.
Along with trying and failing to be a sexy, witty, chic comedy (Okay: Chic, yes. Partial credit on the chic.), Made in Paris also sorta wants to be a musical, because it has the singing, dancing Ann-Margret. But no one else in the film sings or dances, so we have the odd situation of her every now and then bursting into song by the side of the Seine or hitting the floor in a nightclub with a flash mob of backup dancers.
Jourdan does justly call her out as wanting the romance and the drama, but not the messy reality (you know, the part with diaphragms and wet spots). In one breath she lays into Ken Doll for his possessiveness, but in the next it's "I believe in marriage." Ken Doll offers her the suburbs and housewifery and a wedding ring. Louis Jordan offers her Paris and Provence and her career and... well, we'll see about the ring.

"I wanted to get married and move to the suburbs and have children. 
Maybe even a station wagon."

Of course, she goes the way of every filmic career girl--which is to give up her career, surrender everything she is passionate about and has worked for, all the things she has achieved... to be someone's wife. We're supposed to pretend that we don't all know that, in three or four years, Ken Doll will be moving on to women thirteen hundred and twenty nine, thirteen hundred and thirty and the rest. And Ann-Margret will be stranded out in Greenwich or Westchester with three kids, subscriptions to Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, a bottle of tranks and a growing sense of resentment. She's no Peggy Olson: She's not even a first-season Joan Holloway.
Made in Paris isn't much of a film on its own--the unfunny comedy of morals and misunderstandings doesn't do much for me, the characters are dippy or douchey or both. But, again, those costumes. And, while it's a dullish movie with great costumes, it's not as much of an exquisitely clad snoozefest as Grace of Monaco. Just remember: We're only here for the fashion show.

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