Spy Games: ARABESQUE (1966)

Sophia Loren modeling some of the Christian Dior costumes she wore in ARABESQUE (1966)

Today Sophia Loren is celebrating her 77th birthday so I decided to dedicate this month’s addition of Spy Games to Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966), which features one of my favorite Loren performances. It’s a fun and fast-paced spy romp with loads of style. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post:

Films with simple plots and cookie cutter narratives rarely hold my interest and although I can understand why ARABESQUE is often criticized for its convoluted script and erratic editing, these things don’t bother me. When I go to the movies I want to be knocked out by the visuals and in that regard ARABESQUE is a much more arresting film than CHARADE. Stanley Donen along with cinematographer Christopher Challis pulled out all the stops when they were making ARABESQUE and their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach works for me.

In Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies, Donen expressed his frustration with the script and is quoted as saying, “We had to make it so interesting visually that no one will think about it.” And scriptwriter Peter Stone, added that Donen, “shot it better than he ever shot any picture. Everything was shot as though it were a reflection in a Rolls-Royce headlamp.” Gregory Peck also added, “If you look at the picture, we were always moving, because Stanley just wanted to keep the ball in the air the entire time, and he used every camera trick you could think of.”

Stanely Donen’s creative tactics turned ARABESQUE into a pop art extravaganza loaded with memorable images and mod flourishes. The director’s camera moves under tables, glides through the air and takes aim at any reflective surface that’s handy. He also plays with light and shadows giving the film a completely artificial atmosphere at times that only adds to the comic book look of the movie.

You can find my latest installment of Spy Games at the Movie Morlocks.
- Spy Games: Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966) @ TCM’s Movie Morlcoks

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