Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 22nd, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1961
Director: Martin Ritt
Writers: Jack Sher, Irene Kamp, Walter Bernstein
Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier, Louis Armstrong, Diahann Carroll, Barbara Laage, André Luguet, Marie Versini, Serge Reggiani
BluRay released: October 24th, 2016
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Paris Blues was directed by Martin Ritt whose other notable films include, Edge of the City, The Long, Hot Summer and The Outrage. Key collaborators on Paris Blues include, screenwriter Irene Kemp (The Beguiled), cinematographer Christian Matras (The Grand Illusion) and composer Duke Ellington.
Though American’s in Paris have served as the backdrop for numerous films. It is safe to say that those films depiction of Americans’ could not be farther removed than the way they are portrayed in Paris Blues. Where those aforementioned films tended to romanticize said characters, Paris Blues takes an opposite approach that humanizes them.
The narrative is well constructed and pacing is never an issue as this film does a superb job letting key moments fully resonate for maximum effect. The main characters are well defined and their motivations are never left in doubt? With that being said, as set in their ways as the character are. One of this film’s great strengths is how this film fully embraces each character is conflicted over which direction they want to go. And nowhere is this more evident than during the film’s finale.
Another area where this film excels is its rock-solid black & white cinematography which allows the performances to take center stage. And when it comes to Paris locations this film visual delivers in spades. Not to be overlooked is the use of music in this film. It plays an integral role in the story at hand and reinforces the mood.
Performance wise the entire cast are good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performances being Paul Newman (The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke) in the role of a trombone player named Ram Bowen and Sidney Poitier (The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) in the role of a saxophone player named Eddie Cook. And though these two characters are bound by their love for Jazz. There are others reasons why they don’t want to leave Paris. Ram is obsessed with his music and he feels that Paris is the perfect place for him to create said music. He also feels that settling down would get in the way of his creativity. Eddie reason has more to do with race relations and how he is treated as an equal in Paris, where the color of his skin mattered back in the America.
Other notable performances include, Joanne Woodward (A Kiss Before Dying, The Three Faces of Eve) in the role of Lillian Corning and Diahann Carroll (“Julia”, Claudine) in the role of Connie Lampson. Both of these character’s as just as flesh out as the two main lead roles and these two actresses both deliver outstanding performances.
Paris Blues comes on a 50 GB dual layer (27.9 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Contrast and black levels remain solid throughout, details look sharp, grain looks accurate and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and an option to listen to the Isolated music and effects only track. The audio is in excellent shape as dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too, most notably when it comes to the music. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a stills gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 49 seconds) and an audio commentary with Adrian Martin.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, Duke Ellington contributions to the score / music that appears in the film, who this film was produced by Marlon Brando’s Pennebker Productions, the cast and information about them, the differences between the novel and the film, social commentary and race relations in America when this film was made, Martin Ritt and his thoughts about the film.
Rounding out the extras is a twenty-four-page booklet with three essays – the first essay is titled That Autumn in Paris written by Nicolas Pillai, the second essay is titled Behind the Scenes of Paris Blues: The Same Old Racism from a Different Angle written by Rashida K. Braggs and a third essay titled Martin Ritt: A Craftsman Without Pretension written by Phillip Kemp, cast & crew information and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.
Overall Paris Blues gets a solid release from BFI.