French Dressing (Ken Russell / United Kingdom, 1964):

A dormant port stands for the cinematic situation in England, a bit of splash is what it gets once Ken Russell joins the New Wave. "We're back to sex, are we?" Gormleigh on Sea has its sleepy amusements, a pier and a gazebo and a rink where the Mayor (Bryan Pringle) skates with balloons, still the local go-getter (James Booth) has bigger dreams. His solution is to kick off a film festival and import some sauciness from continental neighbors. "An event is cultural if it's foreign, and even more cultural if it's wearing a bathing suit." The Gallic side is a Riviera of inflatable dolls in bikinis, the blonde bombshell (Marisa Mell) barrels through a pile of them in her convertible and promptly accepts the bloke's invitation. (Heads roll at the tinny parade welcoming the guest, she's doused like one of Sennett's beauties.) Luci del Varietà and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? are the main stylistic poles, Russell keeps the carrousel spinning at top speed, L'Atalante is visible here and there. A manic showbiz vantage, by all means let us have films at the film festival: A racy romp is screened at last (cf. the Scandinavian art-house in Masculin Féminin) and in the ensuing riot the gigantic celluloid pout gobbles up a moviegoer or two. Georges Delerue's score and Tati's deckchairs and parasols contribute to "an un-English atmosphere," and there's Roy Kinnear in bowler hat and caveman's pelt to bring things back to the land of Ealing The switcheroo with the brunette journalist (Alita Naughton) is staged at the nudist beach on a rainy day, just the thing to advance Anglo-French relations and inaugurate a troublemaker's career. "I fall in the water, and all you can talk about is Brigitte Bardot?!" In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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