Tuesday, September 27, 2022

#2,822. What's New Pussycat (1965) - Paula Prentiss Triple Featuire


A sex comedy written by Woody Allen (his first produced screenplay), What’s New Pussycat is a ‘60s film through and through. It is painfully dated. But at times it is also very, very funny.

Fashion editor Michael James (Peter O’Toole) is the most sought-after playboy in all of Paris. Women throw themselves at him, and more often than not Michael is only too happy to oblige his admirers. But Michael has a problem: he is deeply in love with Carole (Romy Schneider), and wants desperately to stay faithful to her.

To this end, he seeks the help of noted psychiatrist Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers), who is having romantic problems of his own. Shunning his overbearing wife (Edra Gale), Dr. Fassbender flirts openly with Renee Lefevre (Capucine), one of his patients. Unfortunately for the good doctor, Renee has fallen under Michael’s spell, as has stripper Liz Bien (Paula Prentiss), who attempts to kill herself every time Michael rejects her.

Surrounded by amorous beauties, Michael is fighting an uphill battle. But when Carole begins dating Victor (Woody Allen), a jealous Michael comes to the realization that he may finally be ready to settle down.

From its flashy costumes to its misogynistic leanings, What’s New Pussycat plays like a relic from the past, with moments that will undoubtedly make modern audiences cringe. While recounting his earliest sexual experiences, Michael talks of an affair he had with his teacher, Miss Marks (Barbara Somers), which we witness during a brief flashback. “Michael, this can’t work”, Miss Marks says as she and Michael embrace, “I’m 34 and you’re 12”.

And yet, for some reason, I did enjoy What’s New Pussycat. It has an energy that is infectious, building and building from one bizarre scene to the next. Michael attends one of Dr. Fassbender’s group sessions, which quickly (and hilariously) devolves into chaos, but this is nothing compared to what happens later on, when all of the characters meet up (most by chance) at a Chateau, then try to outrun the police (who have been called to restore order) by jumping into go-carts and taking off down the street! There’s even a scene in which pretty blonde Rita (Ursula Andress) parachutes into Michael’s car as it is speeding down the highway. And keep an eye out for Richard Burton, who makes a cameo as himself (he shares the screen for about 15 seconds with O’Toole, who co-starred with Burton a few years prior in Becket).

In addition to the film’s unbridled anarchy, writer Allen occasionally pays homage to a handful of cinematic classics. A scene set by a river, featuring Allen and Sellers, harkens back to a similar moment in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights; and there is a dream sequence that looks as if it was lifted straight out of Fellini’s 8 ½!

Filled to its breaking point with slapstick, one-liners, sexual innuendo, and gobs of male chauvinism (Michael calls every pretty woman he meets “pussycat” because it's easier than remembering their name), What’s New Pussycat will not be for everyone. And while I can’t blame you if it rubs you the wrong way, don’t hate me just because I thought it was a blast.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

1 comment:

Rogelio Rodriguez said...

I am a Woody Allen's fan and I just watched this movie. Sadly, I didn't like it and didn't find it funny (with the exception of a couple of Allen's like jokes), but your article made appreciate it a little bit more. For example, regarding the scenes that you highlighted as homage to Fellini and Chaplin, I couldn't make those connections when I was watching the movie. You are right about them and they're very cool references.

Thank you for that!