Frank Sinatra and Yves Montand are, beyond any doubt the two supreme singer-actors of the 20th century. Their commonalities would take up too much space here but for openers both were Italian and spent their childhoods in the environs of International ports (New York and Marseilles respectively) and with six years between them were near contemporaries. Both started out as singers making the switch to acting once established as singers, both married high profile, beautiful and charismatic actresses. That's a good place to stop because whilst Montand remained married to Simone Signoret until she died Sinatra married four times in all. The differences are as fascinating as the similarities but that's not why we're here. There is one more intriguing similarity of sorts: Following approximately one decade in the limelight Sinatra suddenly found he couldn't get arrested and during that comparatively brief period he made a movie called 'Meet Danny Wilson' in which he played a brash, volatile singer who, as an unknown, signs away a lifetime percentage of future earnings, in other words the film was a thinly-disguised Meet Frank Sinatra. Montand's career graph rose steadily and he never had a fallow period but three years before he died he made this movie, at the age of 67, a movie that might just as easily been titled Meet Yves Montand. It's a breathtaking conceit. Montand plays ... well, Yves Montand, returning to Marseilles, where he had lived since he was two years old and where he had begun his career singing in places like the Alcazar. Now he's playing the Opera House in a show that reflects his own life, not only acting but singing and dancing as only he can. For the Montand buff it's pig-out time and it is bewildering why, after critical plaudits, it laid an egg at the box office. It's also bad for non-French buffs like me because French videos play only in Black and White on English video recorders so until/if it goes to DVD I am going to keep losing out. It's impossible to praise this film too highly. No one does charm like Montand, and he charms here; no one sings like Montand, and he sings here ... I could go on but you get the picture. The new score is serviceable at best but there are echos of other songs, notably Les Feuilles Mortes, which Montand owns, there are also snatches of La Vie En Rose pointing up the time when Montand was the lover of Edith Piaf, he himself, in a new number about Hollywood, gives us - in English - snatches of Singin In The Rain and Cheek To Cheek, complete with a nod to Astaire tap-wise. There is also a Marilyn look/sound-alike who throws in a few bars of I Wanna Be Loved By You, to remind us that she and Montand were once a very high-profile item. We even have the well-documented story of how Ivo Livi became Yves Montand, related by the man himself. This really is unmissable even if you only LIKE Montand. If you love, respect and admire him then it's obligatory. 10/10
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