Currently rocking NONE reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m proud to be the first critic to offer you, the humble reader, a ringside seat for the FIRST assessment to this widely forgotten film. I first saw this film in 1998. I’d flown to Salt Lake City, then Seattle, then down to Portland where I immediately rented this film on VHS from a local video store, along with what I thought was a small tub of ice-cream from a local Troutdale supermarket. It turned out that due to a trans-Atlantic misunderstanding about consumer produce packaging, I’d ingested enough concentrate to make five litres of orange juice while watching this film unspool. Love in Paris is the sequel to 80’s cult classic Nine ½ Weeks, it’s got the reputation of being famously, legendarily bad, and it’s actually slightly better than I remembered as I was extremely ill on my first compromised viewing of this text.
While not a box office hit in the UK, the original 1986 Adrian Lyne/ Kim Basinger film is something of an underrated film with a strong female POV. Adapted from a memoirs by author Ingeborg Day, under the pseudonym Elizabeth McNeill, and with a screenplay written between Academy Award wins for documentary making by Sarah Kernochan, Lyne’s film directly addressed issues of male control of women, but was treated as a misfiring, sexy come-on by a male-controlled media who didn’t like the brand of sex being sold. Worldwide, Lyne’s film was an unexpected hit, and this sequel goes a step further by being directed by an actual woman, Anne Goursand, a regular editor for Francis Ford Coppola. I remembered Love in Paris as a tough watch, but when an edited version turned up on YouTube, it seems like time to refresh my memory of John Gray.
Yes, long before there were 50 Shades of anything, Mr Gray (Mickey Rourke) was a big-money haunted playboy, distraught over the loss of Elizabeth from the first movie. We know he’s upset because Love in Paris starts with the decidedly unsexy image of a horse keeling over and dying outside Gray’s window in Central Park, and if Barbie and Ken taught us anything about horses, it’s that they’re of symbolic value to the male sense of his own sexual drive. For Gray, sex isn’t a frivolous pursuit, it’s a full-time job, and by the look of the state he’s in as he mooches, mumbling around his high-end apartment, it’s been a very tough paper round for him. Asking some big, existential questions about himself, Gray heads directly to Paris where he snaps up all of Elizabeth’s artwork at an action, and where he finds new romance when he meets one of her friends, red-head Lea Calot (Angie Everhart). ‘People don’t usually sell what they value most,’ Gray not-unreasonably surmises, and soon they’re beginning a torrid affair despite his deeply horrid spotty shirt-and-tie combo. Gray offers Lea something that her psychotically camp associate Vitorio DeSalva (Stephen Berkoff) cannot, but he also finds time to knock back Absinthe and help looses the grip on her assistant Claire (Agathe de la Fontaine) held by her abusive boyfriend (Dougray Scott).
Somehow written by a football coach of Celtic Football Club, Mick Davis, reportedly put in position by Scottish ‘do-ya-think-I’m sexy’ heart-throb Rod Stewart, Love in Paris actually manages to recreate some of the artistic feels of the original. The intercutting of the swanko art auction with close-ups of the art itself, the ambient soundtrack (from Balearic beats to a cover of Roxy Music’s Love is the Drug), regretful fingering of snow globes and Rourke’s enthusiastic blowing snot out of his nose on a Parisian park bench all hit the right dissipated notes. ‘You’re extremely clever, I admire that in a woman,’ Gray tells Lea, who responds ‘ Do you like surprises? ‘Only when they come in small packages…’ is his cryptic answer.
‘You’re American, you should know better,’ Lea concludes amusingly after mocking Gray’s masculinity by dancing around in his Armani suit while he recovers from a hangover, but we know that when she starts a ultimatum/countdown to force Gray to come back to her, he’s already halfway out the door, ghosting her exactly the same way Elizabeth ghosted him. As with the first film, the take-away is that hurt people hurt people, and Love in Paris actually does manage to get that message across, portraying Gray as a man in need of repair, and unable to find much moral purchase in the chic, glamorous environs of Parisian nightlife. Not Another 9 ½ Weeks, Love in Paris actually manages to continue the continuity of John Gray’s downward trajectory of the first film, and as such, it’s a surprisingly faithful sequel.