An impromptu fashion shoot at a book store brings about a new fashion model discovery in the shop clerk.An impromptu fashion shoot at a book store brings about a new fashion model discovery in the shop clerk.An impromptu fashion shoot at a book store brings about a new fashion model discovery in the shop clerk.
Avedon was a rarity - a fashion photographer who became a great artistic portrait photographer. Astaire never is shown taking pictures of great or famous people in the film but several times he demonstrates a refinement that separates him from the rest of Kay Thompson's entourage (most of whom don't care what havoc they cause, as long as they get their jobs done). He also has enough sense to question Hepburn's accepting of "empathicalism", and it's viability. Witness his moment in the bistro pouring wine to the two old codgers who are quite pleasant to him while he insults them in English. Hepburn, of course, is so insistent on the validity of her philosophical beliefs that she rejects Astaire's warnings, and jeopardizes the fashion show.
The final blow (seemingly) to the Astaire - Hepburn relationship is when he confronts Flostre at the author's home. He knocks out the Professor, and his brutality demolishes the relationship with Hepburn. But within minutes Hepburn sees another side to Flostre which is unexpected, and suddenly realizes that Astaire may be right after all.
The character of Flostre is obviously based on that of Jean-Paul Sartre, the founder of "existentialism". Based on in some details, but not in theory. "Empathicalism" has to do with trying to empathize with others so as to have a proper response to their needs and aspirations. "Existentialism" has to do with: "An introspective humanism or theory of man which expresses the individual's intense awareness of his contingency and freedom; a theory which states that the existence of the individual precedes his essence." This is from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Sartre has a more complex view of man and society, and one can plow through BEING AND NOTHINGNESS to try to understand it. In fact some critics have wondered if the Nobel Prize Winner eventually got very wrong headed about his theory. But he certainly seems a meatier philosopher than his celluloid copy.
But Flostre does have the trappings of Sartre on him. He is revered by his followers world wide (such as Hepburn). He is a man with sexual appetite (as Sartre was with his long time companion and fellow writer Simone Beauvoir). And there is some traces of an anti-capitalist, even anti-American attitude in him. It is not definitely pushed, but when Astaire and Thompson break into his house during a party, they pretend they are American share cropper singers whom Flostre had brought to France to perform for his guests. Now, we never hear what this actual pair actually would sing, but judging from their background they would have to throw in some protest songs. Sartre was very critical of the U.S.A. and capitalism (today his fans have to explain Sartre's willingness to accept Russian imperialist moves under Communism in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s - they find it very hard to do so).
On the whole the parts of the film work well, so I give it seven stars. Kay Thompson is best recalled for being the creator of the little girl at the Plaza "Eloise", but she shows here a highly entertaining performance as Maggie Prescott, the editor who pushes and loathes pink. The film would have been better if somehow Avedon's portrait photography had been brought into the story, possibly in a final scene with Flostre as his subject. However, even without such a sequence the film is rewarding to watch, especially in the musical numbers. Astaire does equally well with Thompson and with Hepburn as his partners here.
- Jul 23, 2005