I’ve never been to Paris, or anywhere in France for that matter. I’d love to tour the country. And now I have one more good reason to go.
A Foreign Affair, one of my favorite Billy Wilder movies, has never been released on DVD anywhere until now. Universal finally decided to release a dozen Marlene Dietrich films on DVD, many for the first time: Blonde Venus (the one where she dances in a gorilla suit), The Devil is a Woman, and Morocco. Their new transfer of The Scarlett Empress is said to be better than the Criterion DVD (Universal probably had access to a better master print).
I love watching Marlene Dietrich, so you can imagine how excited I am. Except … the DVDs weren’t released in the United States. They were only released in France.
I have a multiregion DVD player, so I can play the DVDs if I want to buy them. I would probably need help purchasing them from a friend who has more French-reading skills than I do, although I was able to maneuver Amazon France better than I thought. (A Foreign Affair is La scandaleuse de Berlin.) However, the shipping costs seemed to be about twice what the DVD itself cost. Wow, and I thought shipping charges from the UK were bad. A single DVD would cost upwards of $40.
So perhaps this is the optimal time to jet across the pond to Paris for a decadent little vacation, scooping up Marlene Dietrich DVDs while I am there. Truly, I would be saving money. Maybe we could stop in London on the way back so I could pick up some books and movies there, too. Think of all the shipping costs I wouldn’t have to pay. It’s practically tightwaddery. Alternately, I could wait to see if Universal decides to release these movies in the U.S. sometime next year, but I am feeling impatient.
I’ve particularly wanted to see A Foreign Affair in the past few months. The movie is set in Germany in the late 1940s, and Wilder, who worked in Berlin after WW2, wanted to portray the city and its inhabitants realistically. It’s a dark movie, cynical about Americans’ post-war efforts to return everything to normal, especially morality. Most of the Germans in this movie aren’t “bad guys” but people who are trying to survive when their city has been gutted and destroyed. They need money to rebuild, and a visiting Congressional delegation arrives to survey the damage and to decide just how much money the city deserves. Are these people, is this city worth rebuilding?
One of the members of Congress is played by Jean Arthur, and there’s a scene at the beginning of the movie where she looks out of the airplane window at the ruined city and gasps. She’s in Congress, she should be fully aware of what’s going on in the world … but no matter how awful she imagined Berlin might be, it looked far worse in person. Once she arrives in Berlin, more of her illusions are stripped away, bit by bit.
If you haven’t figured out yet why someone who grew up in the New Orleans area, and still has family there, might be thinking of this movie and wanting to see it again, shame on you.