Monday, July 30, 2007

The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther; Comedy, USA/ UK, 1963; D: Blake Edwards, S: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner, Capucine

Sir Charles is a charming playboy, but at the same time he is also the Phantom, the most wanted master thief in Europe, chased for years by inspector Clouseau. Both of them leave for the fancy ski resort Cortine d'Ampezzo because princess Dala is resting there together with her jewel the Pink Panther. Charles organizes the kidnapping of Dala's dog only to "save" him and end up as a hero, thus starting his plan to try to seduce the princess. But Simone, Clouseau's wife, is also in love with Charles and helps him whenever she can. At the same time George, Charles nephew, shows up, also in order to steal the jewel. Clouseau arrests Charles but his wife places the stolen jewel into his pocket - making the police confuse Clouseau for the Phantom and arrest him.

Nonchalant comedy "The Pink Panther" is one of the greatest successes in the career of director Blake Edwards, establishing it's tone already in the twisted animated opening sequence where the Pink Panther is doing all kind of crazy stuff on the screen (later on he would get his own cartoon show) equipped with memorable score from Henry Mancini that was nominated for an Oscar. Stoicism and skillfulness are not the main virtues of the (second) main hero inspector Jacques Clouseau (after David Niven's character Charles) - he is so clumsy that he trips over furniture, knocks himself in the dark, stucks his hand in a cup, embroils himself in a giant blanket when he tries to throw it over himself on the bed...Peter Sellers is very good in his legendary role for which he was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, but because of the film's banal and sometimes forced tone towards squeezing the humor out of his clumsiness, the authors don't seem particularly inventive and fail to reach that Parthenon of Billy-Wilderian intelligent comedy. One of the rare moments when they actually do is the sequence at the costume party where two police officers are disguised in a costume of a Zebra in order to secretly guard the jewel, interrupting Clouseau and prompting him to say in anger: "Get back to your post or you'll be degraded to street police!" At times David Niven is actually funnier than Sellers - in one scene he made the princess drunk and said to her: "If you were a real lady, you would have slapped me by now", upon which he closes his eyes in fear she will actually do it and makes an adoring facial expression. The rhythm, mise-en-scene and style are actually pretty good, slightly more ambitious than it seems, but the bizarre end is rather mean-spirited and out of place. "The Pink Panther" isn't that funny as some say it is, but it's still a truly well made comedy.


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