In the French Style (1963)
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I was surprised when I got my copy that this film was in black and white--by 1964 most major films were being produced in color and I just naturally assumed this would be too. I was also surprised that it doesn't look or play like an American movie, no big French Provincial, quintessentially '60's sets, no elaborate costumes even after her character becomes a model, etc. It's a rather grimy and bleak-looking little movie about a young American girl who goes to Paris to learn to paint and gets sucked up into the nightlife and has a number of affairs with businessmen who come and go, leaving her feeling empty by the film's end. But nothing really happens, the events never rise above the level of soap opera--a sleepy one at that--and it's hard to tell at times what the director was trying to get across.
Jean looks beautiful throughout--which for me justified the expense of buying the film, and it wasn't that it was exactly boring. But it lacked a masterly touch. For example, when the character's father comes to visit and expresses disapproval of her painting and lifestyle, asking her to come home, her reaction is so listless it's impossible to tell if her character is supposed to be upset, indifferent, if she even feels close to her father at all. This emotional ambivalence pervades both her character and the film, until the viewer is left starving for a sympathetic character to invest in. With only a few touches where we get to see her character express some passion about something, it could have been so much better. As it is, it's kind of an exasperating film.
Fans of Seberg will still love it however, as she is adorable and at the apex of her youth and beauty.
Robert Parrish's "In the French Style" features excellent black-and-white location photography, by Michel Kelber. The performances are wonderful, and Seberg's carries the film, which loses direction after, to quote, "the years pass quickly," in Paris. This film is almost perfectly divided into two separate stories. The first part, with Seberg and Forquet, is the best. The story falls apart after Seberg's character becomes a modern day "Camille" - for too many minutes into the new drama, you're wondering what happened to the endearing (and extremely beautiful looking) young couple you've been following so far
Forquet makes an additional, brief appearance. His main replacement, Mr. Baker, is given no opportunity to match the romantic build-up of Seberg and Forquet, which hurts the film considerably. After the important, mostly off-screen relationship with Baker gets going, the story switches gears to focus on the arrival of Seberg's father, Addison Powell, in Paris. Father Powell wants Seberg to give up "the life you lead" (meaning men and parties) and return to a more ordinary life in Chicago. Seberg has to make a decision about her future when Baker's (news correspondent) job takes him to the Middle East (a war zone).
Seberg, who ended her life tragically in 1979, should have played "Camille"; she, like the movie, appears so full of potential. Forquet, who really has a handle on his character's age, is exceptional; unfortunately, he began disappearing after "The Young Rebels" (1970). Surprisingly, Powell appeared on TV's "Dark Shadows" (1968); as "Dr. Lang", he temporarily cured Barnabas Collins of vampirism. Fortunately, Baker went directly into lead roles that took better advantage of his worth, like "Zulu" (1964).
******* In the French Style (9/18/63) Robert Parrish ~ Jean Seberg, Philippe Forquet, Addison Powell, Stanley Baker
But the actors were convincing. Seberg of course is perfect for this part, like when she says smiling: 'Trying to impress him with how all-round marvelous I am.' She acts with a powerful glance. Also, she is the queen of beautiful smiles.
I guess Stanley Baker was solid as always, but his part was underdeveloped. Philippe Forquet steals the show, as a kind of creepy boyfriend. But his drama doesn't get exploited as nothing really gets really nasty in this film. Forquet was, because of his looks, a logical counterpart of Seberg. Fun facts: he became specialized in playing French aristocrats in Hollywood films, and was once Sharon Tate's boyfriend.
The relaxed tone of the film is probably its best quality. It is observing rather than trying to share a controversial opinion, like for example a film of Costa-Gavras would. It reminded me a bit of Ma nuit chez Maude, but more old-fashioned. There are also some neat shots of Paris, and a lot of shots from beautiful Jean Seberg. With a lot, I mean A LOT. The superfluous close-ups are hardy countable. But how could I argue with director Robert Parrish? She is downright gorgeous. When you are this pretty, and can act as well, well, why not? I rate it 7/10.