Film version of Melvin Van Peebles' Broadway musical. A pair of devil-bats take human form and crash a Harlem house party in an attempt to break it up. But somehow, their attempts to ruin the party fail.
A tale of innocence abroad, with racial overtones. Turner is a Black American, stationed at an air base in France. His captain thinks Turner's a good Negro, obedient, cheerful, and frightened, so he gives him a promotion and a three-day pass. On the first night, at a club, he meets Miriam, a White Parisian shop clerk. They dance, talk, and fantasize about each other. He's amazed when she agrees to spend the weekend with him at a Normandy beach hotel; in fact, he guesses she's a prostitute. She's not, they go; it's off season, they have their pick of rooms, and romance ensues. Then, racial misunderstanding and real prejudice complicate the weekend and its aftermath. Written by
It's an amazing film....very timely and insightful.
Melvin Van Peebles is a hard film maker to understand. Some of his films are exceptional--wonderful examples of low-budget film making as well as a film with a message. And yet, I have difficulty getting past the fact that he was the same film maker who made one of the worst films I have ever seen ("Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song")--which was inept on just about every level. I don't understand this...but i am happy I didn't stop watching after I saw "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"---otherwise I would have missed some tremendous films.
"The Story of a Three-Day Pass" is Van Peebles' first full-length film and it really helped me appreciate the film more by watching the introduction that comes on the DVD. Van Peebles explains how he made the film in France and the movie was accepted to a film festival in California--where the film was welcomed by the same people that NEVER would have allowed him to make this film! Talk about irony. Much of this was because black film makers were not usually offered money to make movies. And, even if this WOULD have happened in the 1960s, it's HIGHLY unlikely that they would have given him a movie where the plot involves an interracial romance between a black American soldier and a white French woman! It's a shame, as it is a terrific little film.
As the film was made in France, pickings for the leading role were naturally thin. So Van Peebles selected Harry Baird (who was born in Guyana and lived in Britain) for the lead. Yes, his accent isn't quite right--but I could make an allowance for that. And Baird did do a nice job--playing a man who has to tread the difficult path between playing the system and being a 'nice negro' and be proud. As for the female lead, Nicole Berger is sweet as the French woman who can see the man in Baird...period. Their romance is very sweet they meet and then spend a weekend together. However, Baird's character is in the US Army--and when his fellow white soldiers see him fraternizing with a white woman, his pending promotion is definitely at risk as racism is still alive and well in American culture in 1968 and such happenings were NOT tolerated.
Despite the low budget and a few minor rough spots, I was super-impressed by this movie. It looked very professional and sounded it as well--on par with other French films of the time, even though it was made by a man with hardly any experience. The leads also were terrific and very likable--so much that you really are pulling for them throughout the film. And, on top of all this, the film had a great message. As a result, I am giving the film a 9--as compared to other low-budget films, it's head and shoulders better.
A few of the many wonderful scenes to look for in the film is the standing at the Spanish restaurant when Baird's character thinks the man is hurling a racial insult at him, when the black ladies' group comes to visit the base as well as the love scenes. Wow...what a film.
By the way, in a nod to French sensibilities at the time, it's not surprising that the characters were very sexual in the film (though compared to "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" the nudity and sexuality is VERY muted and fits with the story). But parents might want to think twice about having younger kids see this or at least reinforce the old expression "Kids: don't try this at home".
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