Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
A New Kind of Love is a weak romantic comedy exploiting the husband and wife acting team of
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. After their bolder work getting established a few years earlier,
it seems like make-work performed on a studio treadmill. Clearly reacting to the influx of racier
European art films, Melville Shavelson's script sends two adventurous Americans to Paris where they
meet cute and indulge in a trite farce dotted with lame fantasies. The color footage of Paris is
and Woodward are a grandly photogentic couple and there's some okay work in secondary roles, but
this is unusually lightweight, even for Hollywood.
Bad-boy journalist Steve Sherman (Paul Newman) avoids being fired and lands an
exciting assignment in Paris, at the same time that fashion designer Samantha
Blake (Joanne Woodward) heads there with her boss Joe Bergner (George Tobias) and co-worker
Leena (Thelma Ritter). They're going to copy the latest Paris originals in person instead of
from afar. Leena has long been hoping for Joe to propose and is dismayed when he's co-opted
by a slick French dish, Felicienne Courbeau (Eva Gabor). Steve shacks up with the first pretty
face that comes along, much to the amazment of his meek pal Harry (Marvin Kaplan). The 'tomboyish'
Samantha at first resists the general air of promiscuity but eventually goes to a salon for a makeover,
emerging as Mimi, a boulevard-strolling poule complete with wig and cigarette holder.
Thinking she's the real article, Steve interviews Mimi and starts a newspaper sensation by
printing her naughty tales of sexual escapades. Meanwhile, on a particular saint's day, the models,
designers and other female workers hold a big street party to celebrate their search for husbands.
1963 had to be the year that the European wave really hit in the media. Hollywood fell under the
illusion that Americans were dying to see more movies about uninhibited wild times on the Seine
or the Tiber, as made famous in hits like
La dolce vita. Even Alfred Hitchcock
bowed to the trend by making the main character in his The Birds a jet-setting playgirl that
caused a scandal by allegedly leaping nude into a Roman fountain. One of the year's biggest
successes was Billy Wilder's
Irma La Douce, a strained comedy about
an innocent Paris cop who takes on a second identity to woo a prostitute who wears sexy green
A New Kind of Love buys deeply into this "oo la la" trend, thanks to a lazy story that partially
re-runs Irma by having Woodward pretend to be a high-class hooker, even though her Mimi
comes off as a cheap-looking tramp. In a misdirected effort to be sophisticated, the film is mostly
embarrassing. Fashion, romance and seduction are made the objects of a lot of toothless satire that
relies on tired formulas.
Nicknamed Sam, Woodward's 'masculine' female lead has sworn off men after a bad
experience and thrown herself into a career. The film presumes that career women are
secretly desperate to drop all that nonsense in favor of romance. Newman's hero is your typical playboy
of the time, irresistable to the exclusively gorgeous women eager to exchange sexual
favors for the pleasure of his company, or the company of his perfect blue eyes. But an unidentifiable
"something" is lacking. Newman will eventually gravitate toward Sam in spite of, or because of,
her adventurous deception as Mimi.
The center of the show has some pitiful, sexless dream sequences that throw Woodward and Newman
into forgettable, brief romantic fantasies. Unlike the Fellini originals, they're trite beyond
words, the kind of thing desperate screenwriters come up with in bull sessions: "It's a big football
game, see, and Newman is the quarterback. But he grabs The Bride, Joanne Woodward, and carries her
to the end zone, where a big California King bed awaits them! The crowd cheers! Great, huh?!"
With the central material so far on the stale side, the equally unoriginal supporting characters fare
better than they should. Thelma Ritter is sympathetic, doing the same role she played for Doris Day.
Marvin Kaplan is low-key but funny as Newman's maladroit friend. George Tobias is also okay in a subdued
way, and his scheme to swipe the latest French fashions for his NYC outfit plays well until one realizes
that neither he nor Woodward nor Ritter seem to have a real interest in the clothing. All the fashion
glitz is presumably there for the "female audience" as defined by old movies like
The lazy script defines all the French characters along decadent lines. Robert Clary is a venal street
pimp who sets Newman up with Woodward's "Mimi" as a way to make some quick cash. Eva Gabor also has little
to do but order Onion Soup and run to another sugar daddy as soon as Tobias sees that Ritter is
the right woman for him after all.
Undemanding fans of the two stars may think this is a pleasant romp, but Savant found it mostly
forgettable. The film's idea of hip is to have Maurice Chevalier in a cameo at the big model's
party to sing bits of his songs and walk arm and arm with Woodward and Ritter. Woodward then
gets drunk and climbs a ladder to ask advice of a statue of the Saint of single women. The
statue speaks to her, but we really aren't paying attention.
Among the many models on view are Laurie Mitchell and Celeste Yarnall, both known in cult genre
circles. The IMDB says Audrey Hepburn may be in an unconfirmed cameo as a runway model. If she's
there, I didn't see her, and Hepburn's pretty hard to miss.
A New Kind of Love debuts in a stunning transfer on Paramount's new DVD release. The enhanced
picture has bright colors and only shows a bit of grain during the opticals in the dream material.
The sharp, flawless audio features Frank Sinatra singing the title song over the main titles. In
keeping with Paramount's library policy, there are no extras, not even a trailer.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
A New Kind of Love rates:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: January 16, 2004
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson