A stolid female Soviet agent is sent to Paris on business and is seduced by capitalist ways. [Dir: Rouben Mamoulian/ Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre/ 118 min/ Musical-Dance, Comedy, Romance/ Anti-Socialism]
A Hollywood movie producer is shooting a new film in Paris and employing a Soviet composer to help write the musical score for it. However, the Soviet government doesn’t want this composer’s music to be associated with a bourgeois film, so it sends to Paris some agents to bring the composer back home.
At first, the stolid female agent in charge is very much on board with this plan. As she puts it, “Look, I know perfectly well the pleasures of music and dancing, but pleasure itself is an indulgence. Only by denying selfish interests can one properly serve the state.” Easily said, but by a few scenes later she’s finding it pretty hard to hold out against Fred Astaire, capitalist lingerie and the freedom to choose her own destiny.
This musical remake of Ninotchka is an improvement over the original, politically speaking. No doubt by 1957 the world had a slightly better understanding of socialism, although even here Soviet “ideals” are offered some limited respect.
It’s also a very entertaining film. Partly this reflects a slew of great Cole Porter songs. My favorite is “The Red Blues,” sung by otherwise impoverished and depressed communists to cheer themselves up. Also very much in the plus column are: the dance magic of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire, a campy performance by Janis Paige, and an often hilarious script that makes the most of socialist stereotypes.