Movie buffs that love film made before the age of the blockbuster love Audrey Hepburn. They can talk about her for ages, from how she legitimized the romcom genre to her impeccable fashion sense to her delightful voice that shocked everyone in “My Fair Lady.” Their eyes light up and their breathing shallows, almost reverentially. Until you bring up “Paris When It Sizzles.”
“Paris When It Sizzles” is a 1964 comedy that spends little effort taking itself seriously. Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, most famously appearing together in “Sabrina,” play the lead characters – a Hollywood script writer with a deadline and his temporary typist. He narrates his new movie to her as she types, and the audience watches it unfold onscreen.
This film is often considered the worst of the Hepburn collection and even she admits to not liking it. The largest problem was that nobody could quite understand what they were seeing. From beginning to end, “Paris When It Sizzles” is filled with inside jokes and movie trivia, not to mention meta-referencing itself repeatedly. The world of 1964 didn’t have paparazzi, social media and trivia geeks in nearly the number it does now, so only the truly passionate were able to connect all of the seemingly anarchaic dots being scattered about. Films like this are being made regularly now, but back then it was greeted with a lot of confused head shaking.
One of the best jokes lies squarely on the fact that Tony Curtis is in the movie. He was a huge actor at the time and “Paris When It Sizzles” was filmed near the peak in his popularity. In the dialogue, his boss constantly reminds him that he has a bit part to play in the scenario that is unfolding and he won’t even be remembered. He is not listed in the credits and his character is known simply as “policeman number two,” even though people went and saw the film after discovering he was in it.
“Paris When It Sizzles” is absurd, self-referential and chocked from front to back with in-jokes and spoofs. It is also delightful, witty and worth a look. Then again, Audrey Hepburn is always worth a couple of hours.