Jazz on Film: Paris Blues

Local film curator Peter Lucas has put together Jazz on Film, a month-long series of both famous and little-known movies that examine jazz. One of our favorites is Paris Blues, with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as a couple of expat jazz musicians living in France. Things get complicated when two American women (Joanne Woodard and Diahann Carroll) on vacation come into their lives. Newman’s trombone-playing Bram is cool and aloof with a sardonic grin permanently fixed on his face as if he’s laughing about some inside joke. Poitier’s saxophonist Eddie is a little too angry and anxious to be attractive to us, but Carroll’s prim schoolteacher character doesn’t seem to mind.

There's a sense of bittersweet sadness throughout the film and it's not an altogether happy story, but the music is glorious. (The soundtrack is by Duke Ellington.) From the opening scene's ''Take the A Train'' to the closing credits, the music elevates the action. Louis Armstrong appears early in the film, but he doesn't play on screen until the third act. It's worth the wait; the musical showdown between his character and Newman's is a highlight of the film.

Other movies on the schedule include the popular documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day(Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk and Mahalia Jackson appear) and the rarely seen thriller Mickey One, with a young Warren Beatty as a comic on the run from the mob. See Paris Blues at 7 p.m. June 8. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Sat., June 8, 7 p.m., 2013

 
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