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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!

In Her Shoes

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in-her-shoes

Image credit: In Her Shoes, 2005

I was so saddened to hear about the passing of director Curtis Hanson last month. I’ve featured his films LA Confidential and Wonder Boys on Cinema Sips in the past, but this week I’m excited to write about one of his less frequently lauded films In Her Shoes (DVD/Download). An unconventional choice for Hanson, this quasi-rom com could have veered off into Hallmark Channel territory. But with his skilled hand it became a beautiful film about the relationship between sisters, the joy and pathos of aging, and the quest we’re all on to find professional fulfillment. The fact that it features sugary pink drinks and designer shoes- well, that’s just icing on the cupcake.

Adapted from the wonderfully fun novel by Jennifer Weiner (one of my personal favorite writers), In Her Shoes is about two sisters (Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz) who have a falling out, and struggle to find their way back to each other.  Along the way they reunite with a long-lost grandmother (played by Shirley MacLaine), and discover the love and self-confidence both had always lacked. Sure there’s some romance, a lot of cute shoes, and bikini shots of Cameron Diaz after she moves into her grandma’s retirement community. But there are also some great scenes about the struggles many of us face in life, and that really triumphant moment when finally, at last, you figure out what you’re meant to do. Watching this movie just makes me hopeful.

In an effort to bond with her too-cool-for-school adult granddaughter, Shirley MacLaine spends an evening watching Sex and the City and drinking cosmos. It’s a cliche, but I’m sorry, cosmos are delicious!  And for this movie, the drink fits. While watching In Her Shoes, I recommend drinking a Cosmopolitan.

Cosmopolitan

1 ½ oz Vodka

1 oz Cranberry juice

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz fresh lime juice

Lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime.

cosmopolitan

What always delighted me about this film was the spot-on depiction of Florida retirement communities. As a child of Florida snow-birds, I’ve always daydreamed about just running away to the land of early bird specials, white pants, water aerobics, and cocktail hour. It’s only the lack of decent Tex-Mex there that stops me (and okay, my really great life back in Texas). Lucky for me, I’ve got In Her Shoes, and that really great Florida-set episode of Seinfeld to remind me of what I’m missing. Cheers!

The Apartment

Photo Credit Mirisch Corporation, 1960

Photo Credit Mirisch Corporation, 1960

Happy New Year from Cinema Sips! What a fabulous excuse to drink a cocktail. Tonight, I’m screening one of my favorite films, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. This picture takes place over the holiday season in Mad Men-era New York City, and ends with a climactic New Years Eve. What better way to ring in 2014 than with a sparkling cocktail and the sparkling chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in this wonderful classic film. Additionally, the cocktails are certainly flowing in this movie, so I can think of no better film to end 2013 on than this one.

The Apartment tells the story of Jack Lemmon’s character C.C. Baxter, a lowly employee of a large life insurance firm. In order to work his way up in the firm, he lends his apartment out to company executives and their mistresses. Things turn sour when he realizes that one of those mistresses is the woman he’s already fallen for, adorable white-gloved elevator operator Shirley MacLaine. Although there is a lot of humor in this film, there is quite a lot of darkness too. MacLaine does a wonderful job of playing the wounded “other woman”, who is both funny and devastatingly sad at the same time. Jack Lemmon is charming with his bowler hats and tennis racket-strained spaghetti, yet his character also harbors a dark suicidal past. Billy Wilder’s script is perfect as usual, filled with witty banter and charming outdated phrases. Oh to be Shirley MacLaine with her cute little white gloves and her frozen daiquiris in a basement tiki bar- I love it all.

For my cocktail tonight, I’m referencing the multitude of martinis that are drunk during the course of this film, as well as the champagne that makes the final scene so climactic. I’m adding a splash of Cassis liquor to make it a bit more festive and sweeter, and just a hint of lemon to bring out the fruitiness of the champagne. This drink is similar to a Kir Royale, only with an addition of vodka and lemon. In this film, the most shocking thing of all is not that C.C. Baxter lets numerous men and women have trysts in his bed, but rather that he lives in an absolutely HUGE apartment in New York City, for which he pays a mere $85 a month. To that end, I’m serving up the Low Rent Royale Martini tonight.

1 ½ oz vodka

½ oz Cassis liqueur

Champagne or dry sparkling wine

Lemon twist

Shake vodka and cassis liqueur together over ice, and strain into a chilled glass. Top with Champagne and lemon twist.

kir-royale-martini

I hope you enjoy this sparkling cocktail as much as I do, and with any luck The Apartment will make you laugh while simultaneously tugging at your heart strings. Whether you already have your someone special to kiss at midnight, or you’re still looking for that person, this film makes me hopeful that good things are ahead. At least drinks-wise anyway. Happy New Year, and cheers!