Monday, March 23, 2009


AndressFest is over for another year. As usual we had three of the most questionable films in modern cinematic history, a big pile of snacks, and enough strong booze to stun a hippo. For about half of our guests it was their first AndressFest, and I can only hope that they got home safely after several hours of non-stop Ursula action. I didn’t see anything in the newspaper the next day about anyone having a car crash while screaming “Make her stop! Or at least act!”, so I’ll assume they’re all alright.

Ironically enough, we actually started AndressFest ’09 with one of Ursula’s best movies… possibly because she had little more than a cameo in it, thus restricting the power of The Curse of Ursula. It was the quintessential French sex farce, 1965’s ‘What’s New Pussycat?’.

Michael James (Peter O’Toole), a young man living and working in Paris, is in love with Carole (Romy Schneider), but he has commitment problems. He is irresistibly drawn to other women, and other women are irresistibly attracted to him. This includes kooky American stripper Liz (Paula Prentiss), ice queen Renee (Capucine) and ravishing lady parachutist Rita (Ursula Andress). Meanwhile Michael’s friend Victor (Woody Allen) is also in love with Carole, and pretty much anything else in a skirt, but unlike Michael he is entirely resistible.

In desperation Michael seeks the help of noted German sex therapist Dr Fassbender (Peter Sellers), but unfortunately Dr Fassbender has more problems with sex than anyone, and he sees Michael as more of a role model than a patient. Michael is basically on his own as he tries to curb his urges long enough to marry Carole.

There’s a lot to love about ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ It was Woody Allen’s first feature film as a scriptwriter, and it’s filled with absurdist comedy and his trademark quips. There’s the deliriously chic mid-60s French setting, the cool clothes, the sexy clubs… and a sunny innocence to the whole farce that would soon be lost in the nihilism and cynicism of the 1970s.

There’s also Peter Sellers’ hysterical performance as Dr Fassbender. He’s a lecherous, frustrated man with a Mary Tyler Moore haircut and a range of skinny velvet swinger suits, who rants and rages at his Brunhilde-shaped wife, his dysfunctional patients and his own thwarted hormones. But he’s so convinced of his personal studliness that no amount of rejection can keep him down for long. He’s rightly considered one of Peter Sellers’ greatest creations.

When I think about it, I suspect that part of the appeal of ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ for me is that I want to be Michael James. Not so that I can seduce every showgirl from here to the Moulin Rouge (although now that you mention it…). I just love his lifestyle. He has a great job as the features editor at a chic magazine. He has a great apartment which looks like an interior design spread from Playboy circa 1963. He goes to a great gentleman’s club, where beautiful women perform seductive dances (as opposed to a modern “gentleman’s club”, where skanky tattooed junkies lapdance their way into degradation). He even has a great car – a tiny vintage convertible sports car with a mysterious power to attract any Ursula Andresses who happen to be falling out of the sky. What’s not to envy?

But if you forced me to choose the single best thing about ‘What’s New Pussycat?’, I’d have to admit that it was Ursula herself. She was a distinctly limited actress with a densely unfathomable accent who couldn’t convey any non-sexual emotion if her life depended on it, but when she was just dumped into a scene and told to be sexy, as she was here, she was dazzling. She didn’t have to do much more than flirt with a couple of men and race from room to room in skimpy tangerine-coloured underwear, but even so she stole the show. It seems that flirting and wearing skimpy underwear were two of her core strengths. Who knew?

So at the end of the day, in order to effectively review ‘What’s New Pussycat?’, I can think of no better suggestion than that offered by The Flatmate:

Me: I’m a bit stuck on this review. How can I best describe ‘What’s New Pussycat?’

The Flatemate: Just put up a picture of Ursula Andress in her underwear. That’s all I remember about it.

Me: Hmmm. Makes sense.

So there you go - as much of a review as any man needs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooooh! I LOVE that scene!


8:56 AM  
Blogger an9ie said...

It was rather amusing, although I was getting annoyed by the way people were constantly addressing each other as "Pussycat" :p

Also, I don't have quite as photographic a memory of Ursula as you do, so I was peering at all the women going, "Is THAT Ursula? No, wait, maybe it's that one." Then she fell from the sky in leopardskin and I was all, "Ohhh, THAT must be Ursula."

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could anyone not know Ursula! Jaymez

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next year you should show "Perfect Friday" with Ursula, Stanley Baker and David Warner. Ursula's best film. Find the DVD on Ebay.

1:11 PM  

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