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A New Kind of Love

A New Kind of Love
1963 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 110 min. / Street Date January 18, 2004 / 14.99
Starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor, George Tobias, Marvin Kaplan, Robert Clary
Cinematography Daniel L. Fapp
Art Direction Arthur Lonergan, Hal Pereira
Film Editor Frank Bracht
Original Music Erroll Garner, Leith Stevens
Written, Produced and Directed by Melville Shavelson

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 flashy, Newman 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 lingerie.

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 Women.

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:
Movie: Fair
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: January 16, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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