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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!

Belle de Jour

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belledejour

Image credit: Belle de Jour, 1967

It is one of my greatest sorrows that I missed being alive during the 1960’s. Sure it was a turbulent time in many ways, but the fashions- oh, the fashions. I’ve done my best to channel what I’ve seen on screen into my current wardrobe (thanks Boden!) but I despair that I’ll never have the style of Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour (DVD/Download). Everything, from her rain coat to her underwear, is perfection. Prostitution never looked so glamorous.

Directed by Luis Bunuel, Belle de Jour is a surprisingly modern film about sexual desire, marriage, and the secrets we keep locked away. Catherine Deneuve is stunning as Severine, the perfect French housewife who gives into her depraved yearnings by working at a brothel. Each day, before the clock strikes 5:00, she satisfies her baser fantasies with men of all types. Eventually she meets a gangster named Marcel, who has all the swagger of a young Mick Jaggar, and despite knowing her time with him is essentially make-believe, Severine finally comes alive. Her debasement is both elegant and sad, as though her perfect outward appearance is just an elaborate mask for the turmoil happening behind those impossibly pretty eyes.

It wouldn’t be a movie about prostitution without bottles of champagne, and Belle de Jour does not disappoint. Glamorous Madam Anais serves it up freely (though warm). Add some French liqueur, and you’ve got a cocktail with style.  While watching Belle de Jour, I recommend drinking a Boisson du Jour.

Boisson du Jour

4 oz French champagne

1 oz Cointreau

2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Orange twist

Combine ingredients in a coupe glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

Time is a strong motif in Belle de Jour, even down to the title. Severine is the Daytime Beauty, only emerging while the sun is up. We hear the ticking clock at Madam Anais’, and we know that her time is slowly running out. When the clock strikes 5, she’ll take her impeccably tailored raincoat, pillbox hat, and cute buckled shoes and go home to a life that doesn’t quite fit. But then again, perhaps it was all a daydream. Cheers!

How to Steal a Million

Image Credit: How to Steal a Million, 1966

Image Credit: How to Steal a Million, 1966

I was in the mood for some vintage Peter O’Toole this week, so I went into my DVD vault to find one of my favorite capers. How to Steal a Million (DVD/Download) is everything one could want in a heist film- sparkling dialogue, stylish clothes and cars, a clever plan, and cheeky romance. For any classic film buff that thinks of O’Toole only as Lawrence of Arabia, prepare to meet funny James Bond.

In recent decades, art heist films have experienced enormous popularity, ie. The Thomas Crown AffairEntrapment, and Ocean’s Twelve. But surpassing them all in style and originality is How to Steal a Million. In this film, Audrey Hepburn is forced to steal her father’s forged sculpture from a Parisian museum before anybody realizes it’s actually a fake. She enlists the help of an art thief, played by Peter O’Toole, who devises a ridiculously clever scheme involving boomerangs, alarms, and Audrey minus her Givenchy couture. Along the way she’s courted by a creepy American businessman played by Eli Wallach, who wants the sculpture for his own unexplained, presumably perverse reasons. Aside from the wonderful script, this film features beautiful shots of 1960’s Paris, as well as maybe the cutest automobile in cinema. Always stylish, Audrey drives around in a little Autobianchi Bianchina sports car (a fancy Fiat 500), and I coveted it so much that when Fiat came out with the 500 Pop, I was first in line to buy one. Sadly, my closet is still missing some Givenchy.

For a classic heist film like this one, the cocktail has to be sophisticated and timeless. One of the most clever parts of the plot involves a boomerang, and without giving anything away, let’s just say the whole operation hinges on it. While watching How to Steal a Million, I recommend drinking a Boomerang.

Boomerang

1.5 oz gin

1oz dry vermouth

1tsp Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1 dash angostura bitters

Garnish: Lemon twist

Stir ingredients together over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a lemon twist.

Boomerang

The Boomerang cocktail first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail book as a whiskey-based drink, however bartenders are still making it today under a different iteration. I happen to like the gin version better myself, and I’ll take any excuse to use Luxardo maraschino liqueur (a new favorite- sorry St. Germain). If you’re looking for a great date night, this movie and this cocktail are it. Being trapped in a closet with cleaning supplies never looked so sexy. Cheers!

Sabrina (in defense of the remake)

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Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Confronted with the summer box office marquee recently, I had to take a pause and just shudder. It seemed like everything was a remake or a sequel. Or a remake. Or a sequel. Does nobody in Hollywood have an original idea anymore? Sure, I enjoyed Jurassic World as much as the next person, in an “oh my God this is so bad that it may be the best comedy I’ve seen in years” kind of way, but still I yearn for more films like Love & Mercy, or Tangerine . I know, I know, studios save all the good movies for the fall or Dec. 25th, but when it’s 105 outside and I want to sit in an air conditioned movie theater, I’d rather not have to suffer through yet another tired superhero flick. In thinking about all these reboots currently in the works, I started wondering if I have ever seen a remake of a film that I actually liked. The list is short, but at the top I would have to put Sydney Pollack’s 1995 version of Sabrina (DVD/Download). I’d even go as far as to say I like it better than the original Billy Wilder version. Before you shriek and clutch your pearls, let me explain.

The romantic plot of Sabrina is truly timeless. Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur to a wealthy family on Long Island, is the quintessential ugly duckling. She pines for the playboy son of her father’s employer, and stares longingly at a world where she’ll never belong. Eventually she grows up, moves to Paris, becomes stylish and sophisticated, then moves back home. The playboy son who barely knew her name takes notice, but she also catches the eye of his serious and surly older brother. Both films feature sparkling wit, lovely costumes (though my vote goes to the 1954 version in that regard), and a good dose of romance. Where the 1995 version wins out for me is in the casting. As much as I adore Audrey Hepburn, and admit that she is a better Sabrina than Julia Ormond, I think the ensemble as a whole is just better in the remake. Harrison Ford takes over for Humphrey Bogart (who at 55 was WAY too old to be romancing 25-year old Audrey Hepburn), and Greg Kinnear plays William Holden’s role. Ford and Kinnear are simply better suited to these characters than their original counterparts, and I genuinely get why Sabrina would have a tough choice to make. Charming, funny Greg Kinnear or serious, sexy Harrison Ford? Can I pretty please be Sabrina for just one day?

In both films, champagne is drunk freely at the lavish Larrabee family parties. So of course, for this sparkling, smart film , I’ll be drinking a champagne cocktail, with a french aperitif twist.  With whichever Sabrina you consider your favorite, I recommend trying a Le Sauveur.

Le Sauveur

.25 oz Absinthe

2.5 oz Cognac

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Suze

.5 oz champagne

Lemon twist

Rinse a champagne flute with absinthe, fill with ice, and set aside.  Fill another glass with ice, add cognac, Cointreau, and Suze.  Stir until chilled.  Empty the champagne flute of ice and remaining absinthe, and strain cognac mixture into the glass.  Top with champagne, and a lemon twist.

Le Saveur

A lot of people may disagree with my opinions on the original Sabrina (and feel free to sound off in the comments below), but however loyal you are to the classic, you’ve got to admit that Sydney Pollack’s film stands on its own. It feels fresh, funny, and charming, and there’s not a superhero or CGI effect in sight- I give it bonus points just for that. Cheers!

Funny Face

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Image credit: Paramount Pictures, 1957, Funny Face

Image credit: Paramount Pictures, 1957, Funny Face

With my wedding anniversary approaching this week, I got a little nostalgic and started looking back through some old photos. It was a very small affair 6 years ago, and the only things I held strong opinions on were the cake and the dress. The cake had to actually taste good, and the dress absolutely HAD to be modeled after Audrey Hepburn’s wedding dress in the film Funny Face (DVD/Download). I’m not delusional enough to think that my body AT ALL resembles Miss Hepburn’s, with her teeny tiny waste, but the dress she wears would look good on anybody. Thus a few phone calls and emails to our family dressmaker/tailor, some swatches sent back and forth, and voila- I had the dress of my dreams.

What’s ironic is that Audrey Hepburn never actually gets married in Funny Face. She plays a Greenwich Village bookstore employee, whose shop is suddenly overtaken by an obnoxious fashion magazine crew. Photographer Dick Avery (played by Fred Astaire and modeled after legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon) spots Audrey and her “funny face” and decides that she is perfect for the magazine’s next campaign. She is flown to Paris where she models various to-die-for Givenchy ensembles and gallivants around the city, hanging out in beatnik coffee houses and staring up at the Eiffel Tower. The musical numbers in this movie are fantastic, and it’s such a joy to see Audrey dancing with the elegant and graceful Fred Astaire.

My drink this week is inspired by the magazine editor’s declaration “Think Pink!”, which is the first of many catchy tunes. Kay Thompson plays Maggie Prescott (essentially Anna Wintour before there was such a thing as Vogue Editor Anna Wintour), and she instructs her fashionable minions that pink is the next great color trend. Frankly, I like it a lot more than cerulean blue (ahem, The Devil Wears Prada). While watching Funny Face, I recommend drinking a Think Pink!

Think Pink!

2 oz vodka

2 oz grapefruit juice

1/2 oz lime juice

4 tsp Maraschino liqueur

Cherry and lime for garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with cherry and lime.

Think Pink!

I’d like to give a special shout-out to my husband for accompanying me to Target yesterday morning to snag the fabulous Lilly Pulitzer glasses used in the above photo.  Any man who will get up at 7:30 on a Sunday to stand in line with a bunch of crazed women shoppers is a keeper.  I guess maybe finding the right guy is even more important than finding the right dress ;-).  Cheers!