For, Aug. 15, 2014

In many ways, "Paris Blues" (1961, b/w) is a routine Hollywood picture about a pair of American musicians, two friends who play in a Paris nightclub — as one of them writes what he hopes will be the Great American Concerto — when they are blindsided by romance.

And maybe that's why the film has been out of circulation so long, and perhaps why it's never had a disc release until now. At last, "Paris Blues" has found its way to DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of the Kino Lorber boutique label.

But the film deserves a better reputation than it has, thanks to a number of elements that should push it a little higher in cinematic esteem.


Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll in 'Paris Blues'

First and foremost are four bright stars in their prime, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll. All four are terrific, Newman and Poitier as the musicians and Woodward and Carroll as American tourists they start dating.          


Joanne Woodward, Paul  Newman and a familiar landmark

The main story is the sparkling romance, assisted by a great deal of terrific black-and-white widescreen location photography shot throughout the City of Lights.

And, as you might expect, there's a lot of music, some great jazz that will have you sitting up to take notice as you snap your fingers and tap your toes.

Especially during one sequence in the final third, as Louis Armstrong enters the club and works up a sort of battle of the bands with Newman, Poitier and their fellow club musicians. It's electric and worth the price of a ticket (or a rental) all by itself.

And there is a subplot about racism in the United States that gives the film some unexpected heft, as Poitier explains to Carroll that he stays in Paris because the locals don't have the prejudices that surrounded him in the States, while Carroll argues that it's their duty to live in their home country and work to bring about change as part of the civil rights movement.

"Paris Blues" is a forgotten gem that deserves to be rediscovered, and now that it's on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time, it can be.