Two friends work at a Paris jazz club and night spot. One is Ram Bowen (Paul Newman), a headliner, white and known for being moody and brilliant. The other is Eddie Cook (Sidney Poitier), a skilled musical genius, Black and a nicer human being it is hard to find. Both have their eyes on the future and when two beautiful woman arrive with the Duke Ellington orchestra for a tour, the eyes are all over them. The two friends now make it there mission to make the women stay in the city of love and their lives, a little longer.
Frankly speaking, you have in your hands (imagine for me if you will that you have bought this film) a youth film of the period. This is a film by a nuanced director, Martin Ritt and stars two of the greatest actors to walk the land we call earth. Its a youth picture that defines the newly adapting social mores of the western world, with comments on sexuality, race, culture, drugs and the emerging opportunity of the post war generation. It comments on these with half a melancholic tone and half a commercial tone that annoyed me with its pulled punches, in particular the chance to have an inter racial couple in full focus.
It then suffers from its feeling of being crafted to suit tastes because of this. They make it so hard not to come away feeling saddened. A film that might have been more if bolder. It does have moments in Now the musical pieces are sublime in energy and feel even now, like drips of sweat in a club. The comments on sexuality and drugs are also back grounded but handled with skill. This makes it pertinent for the period but connectable to those in the know and shows Ritt’s artistry. It also has artistry in its framing, composure and its performance. Poitier is amazing and I love his manner in performance. He is gentle, tender, strong and true. With Newman (another wonderful human being) who acts with the skill of an artisan in his manner and slant, they are amazing. They are the reason to watch the film. You leave wanting more of them and I wish they had the chance to make maybe one more film as a buddy pairing.
The disc is good from the BFI and does give us newly commissioned pieces on the film from some great voices. Rashida K Braggs is someone worth looking out for in this area. The commentary is also a highlight and makes the film set in history and identity.