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Category Archives: Classic Films

Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Model Shop

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Model Shop

Image credit: Model Shop, 1969

When I found out that two of my favorite movies of last year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Echo in the Canyon, were reportedly influenced by Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop (Disc/Download), I needed to see what all the fuss was about. If you’re searching for a slice-of-life ride through ‘60s Los Angeles, look no further than this gorgeous film about love, mortality, and the mistakes of youth.

As the sun rises on a rundown LA bungalow, we meet George Matthews, a former architect at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend’s got one foot out the door, his car’s about to be repossessed, and he doesn’t know what he wants to do ten minutes from now, let alone ten years. But then he spots a mysterious woman (Anouk Aimée) on the Sunset Strip and follows her up into the hills in his little MG. She goes into a house, he looks out over the city that doesn’t feel like home anymore, then turns around and leaves. But fate forces their paths to cross again, and this time he follows her into a Model Shop.  In this strange make-your-own-porn business that could have only existed in the 1960s, men pay to take pictures of women in their underwear, eventually leaving with negatives and a sweaty brow. For George, this sets off a Before Sunrise-esque 24hr love affair, fueled by the looming threat of a Vietnam draft notice which just arrived in the mail. That’s the thing about the ’60s—things happened fast because they had to.

Even though George’s model strips down for his camera, it isn’t until they’re back at her place that she really starts to reveal herself (a good drink will always get you talking well into the night). Equal parts sweet and bitter, while watching Model Shop, I suggest drinking this Sunset Stripped cocktail.

Sunset Stripped

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lillet Blanc

¼ oz Honey Syrup (Equal parts honey and water boiled together, then cooled).

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange peel or dried orange slice

Combine Brandy, Lillet, honey syrup, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a fresh cube of ice. Garnish with an orange peel or dried orange slice.

Sunset Stripped

For anyone wanting to see what Los Angeles looked like in the late 1960s, this movie is a perfect time capsule. The cars, the signage, the mini-skirts, the tanned pre-cancerous skin—Model Shop places you right in the center of it all. Sure you could watch someone else’s modern interpretation of this time period, but isn’t it more fun to go straight to the source? Cheers!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Image credit: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.

This week marks yet another Thanksgiving for Cinema Sips, and although in the past we’ve covered cinema feasts such as those in The Godfather and Giant, I really don’t feel like cooking this year. Luckily, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Disc/Download) features no actual dinner; only cocktails.  In other words, my kind of party!

Made in 1967 during the height of the civil rights movement, this final Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film collaboration features Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white, upper-class daughter of two liberals who have difficulty practicing what they preach.  Sure, they proudly proclaim that African Americans should have equal rights, but when their daughter gets off a plane from Hawaii with a handsome black doctor, those beliefs become complicated.  Directed by Stanley Kramer, this richly drawn film presents all sides to the debate of love vs. societal prejudice.  The daughter (played by Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) comes across as naïve, but with a pure heart untouched by prejudice and hate.  And isn’t that what we all wish for?  That kids would never have to hear ugly racist words, and never be faced with a “pigmentation problem” as Tracy puts it. This girl has found the perfect man, one who’s handsome, smart, and respectful, and looks ever-so-charming with a daisy behind his ear.  I’d say that’s worth fighting a few bigots for.

As this dinner party at a San Francisco mansion grows to include the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the central couple, and a priest, the bar cart gets some heavy use. Meanwhile, the sassy maid is hiding in the kitchen with her cauldron of turtle soup, wondering why these crazy people won’t sit down and eat something.  Let’s take our lead from the moms in this movie, those sensible moms with a preference for sherry and young love.  While watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, I recommend drinking a Sherry Cobbler.

Sherry Cobbler

3 ½ oz Sherry

½ oz simple syrup

2 orange slices

2 lemon slices

Cranberries for garnish

Combine simple syrup and one slice each of orange and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle oranges, then add sherry and ice.  Shake well, until chilled.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh orange slice, lemon slice and fresh cranberries.

Sherry Cobbler

As I write this post, many dinner tables across America are still deeply divided.  There is a chasm between young and old, liberal and conservative, much as there was over fifty years ago in this movie.  Equal rights are still a dream we’re fighting for, but as this movie shows us, it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it to stand up to your elders and say love is all that matters; hate has no place at the table.  Cheers!

The World of Henry Orient

The World of Henry Orient

Image credit: The World of Henry Orient, 1964.

YA literature of the 1950’s and ‘60’s knew what girls wanted. I think of it as the three F’s:  Friendship, Freedom, and Fun. Some of my favorite authors of the time period, including Jane Trahey (The Trouble With Angels), Mary Rogers (Freaky Friday), and Beverly Cleary (Ramona books) covered the three F’s so well that their books and movie adaptations will always be timeless.  Such is the case with this week’s film, based on the novel by Nora Johnson, The World of Henry Orient (Disc/Download).

In many ways, this movie displays a fairy-tale version of Manhattan.  Two teenage girls roam freely through Central Park, leaping over sidewalk trash cans, having grand and glorious adventures under the shadow of skyscrapers and brownstones without fear of being raped, murdered, or mugged. Marian and Viv are like charming characters from a Wes Anderson film (down to the fur coat worn by disaffected Viv); more concerned with meeting heartthrob pianist Henry Orient (played by Peter Sellers) than they are with their parents’ divorces.  In fact, it’s only when Viv’s adulterous mother (played by a sexxxxxxy Angela Lansbury) has an affair with Orient that the adult world starts to seep into their halcyon afternoons.  They’re suddenly forced to grow up, to realize that the people who are supposed to protect them aren’t doing such a good job of it.  Maybe all a girl can really count on is her BFF. And, a cuddly Tom Bosley.

The Peter Sellers character Henry Orient is a strange bird.  He spends most of his time having affairs and playing piano very, very badly. His name gives rise to some Asian-influenced style choices by the girls, including one scene with conical hats, and his apartment is very red and very lacquered.  He also sounds like he hails from either Italy or New Jersey, depending on the scene and the sentence.  Truly, a man of mystery.  While watching The World of Henry Orient, I suggest drinking this Red Lotus cocktail

Red Lotus

1.5 oz Vodka

1.5 oz Hana Lychee Sake

1.5 oz Cranberry juice

1.5 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Grenadine

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. 

Red Lotus

There’s something about these vintage teen girl stories which resonates even stronger with me than the YA literature we know today. In discovering The World of Henry Orient as an adult, I’ve found a tale that feels like a cool wind whipping through the leaves of Central Park. It allows me to imagine an innocent place where precocious girls giggle, whisper, and “adventure” long after the sun has set, experiencing the heady rush of true freedom. Cheers!

Irma la Douce

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Irma la Douce

Image credit: Irma la Douce, 1963

If you love the colorful costumes and sets of classic Hollywood musicals, but can’t abide characters spontaneously bursting into song, then Irma la Douce (Disc/Download) is your movie.  Starring Jack Lemmon as a police officer-turned-pimp and Shirley MacLaine as his prostitute love, this sixties gem is a Billy Wilder film on steroids.  Big visuals, big acting, big run-time—it’s a massive commitment.  But once you give into the world of the Hotel Casanova, you’re in for a real cinematic treat.

When we first see Irma, slouching against a doorway with that little dog under her arm, you instantly know—this is a woman who has seen it all, and just doesn’t give a sh*t anymore.  She views her profession for what it is (a job), and would never allow herself to be swept away by a sappy romance. Even when she “falls” for down-on-his-luck Nestor Patou, it’s with an eye-roll and a shrug.  I see glimpses of this character in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s fabulous work on HBO’s The Deuce, and at times Irma seems almost feminist in her attitudes.  She may have a boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to stop working.  And thus, her boyfriend has to come up with an asinine scheme, pretending to be an English lord, wearing a silly disguise, working multiple jobs so he can afford to pay  for her time, all so she doesn’t sleep with other men.  This relationship seems doomed from the start, but with a sparkling script by Wilder and winning performances by Apartment co-stars Lemmon and MacLaine, somehow it just works.

Included within the elaborate sets built for this film is a charming bar Chez Moustache, where the pimps come for their union meetings and working gals pop in for a pastis between clients.  You could certainly join them in a straight shot of this herbal spirit diluted with a little water, but I prefer mine in a cocktail.  While watching Irma la Douce, I recommend drinking this Cocktail X.

Cocktail X

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Pastis

1 ½  oz Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Cocktail X

Yes, this film is long. Yes, it’s absurd.  But it’s fun to see the intersection of classic MGM musical and 1960s visual style.  There’s teased hair, plastic heart sunglasses, and movie streets too beautiful to be real, but there is also a heartfelt message about the changing social attitudes within the time period Irma la Douce was made.  As wise Moustache says of the business of sex work, “Love is illegal – but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal.”  Leave it to a bartender to speak the truth. Cheers!

BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!