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Ahead of its time - but with close affinities to Cliff Richard.
This is certainly a slickly made movie. Beautifully filmed and edited, it's easy on the eye, and Georges Delerue's score makes it equally easy on the ear.
It's also a little-known movie, even though Ken Russell was for many years a high profile director. (Sadly, his star is no longer in the ascendant).
Other commentators, and heaven knows they are few in number, have failed to draw attention to the obvious connections with the two most famous Cliff Richard movies, "The Young Ones" (1961) and "Summer Holiday" (1962). Kenneth Harper, the producer of "French Dressing", also produced these movies (Russell was invited to direct "Summer Holiday" and declined), and Ronald Cass and Peter Myers are also Cliff hold-overs.
You don't need to be a genius to see the connection between the seaside brass band (in the rain) that ushers in (in black and white) the opening credits for "Summer Holiday" and their counterpart in "French Dressing" (a sort of wordless Greek chorus of oldies, anticipating the verbal Greek chorus of oldies in Richard Lester's "The Knack" (1965), silenced by Alita Naughton's transistor radio).
You also don't need to be a genius to see the femme-fatale as interloper motif from "The Young Ones" (with accompanying jealousy, ultimately unfounded, on the part of the regular girlfriend), reincarnated as Francoise Fayol, or the boy-who-is-really-a-girl (Laurie Peters in "Summer Holiday" - an American - and Alita Naughton when not "dressed as a girl" - also American).
Cliff Richard's continuing celebrity in Britain ensures that his movies (which are actually very good) remain in currency. "French Dressing" is a beautifully made near-miss. It's actually somewhat ahead of its time, which may, strangely enough, have retarded its progress. It certainly deserves to be better known, and in this, its fortieth anniversary year, we should surely be treated to a de luxe DVD, complete with director's commentary, as we already have with the closely related Cliff Richard movies. I somehow doubt, most regrettably, that we shall.
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