The scenery-chewing fiends in Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter (1994) are beautiful creatures with perfectly manicured claws -- i.e. the models, designers, and all-purpose rogues who frequent Paris' Fashion Week. Shot on location at the Carrousel du Louvre and other City of Light locales, Prêt-à-Porter was Altman's attempt to satirize the petty, vicious hijinks of high couture. In his signature style, Altman introduced a broad premise (fashionistas -- bad), populated the set with an infamous cast of thousands, riffed off a loosey-goosey script, and let the cinematic pieces fall where they would. Hey, it worked in Short Cuts (1993), a surprise hit that proved the exception to the rule and, alas, gave Altman the clout to, er, massage his muse with Prêt-à-Porter.
It's not a bad spoof, per se, just not a funny one, which is pretty much the definition of a spoof. Oops. It also suffers from another classic Altman tic: His actors act too much. If affected, anti-naturalistic performances were his aim, he scored a bull's-eye, as Sophia Loren, Kim Basinger, Anouk Aimée, Forest Whitaker, Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins, Lauren Bacall, Lyle Lovett, and Tracey Ullman dart hither and yon, hamming it up like junior thespians in a high school play. (Overemoting normally, 'cause they're playing themselves, are the likes of Cher, Björk, Helena Christensen, designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix, and models Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista.)
If you live and breathe couture, Prêt-à-Porter is an unavoidable must-see. I've already seen it -- unavoidably, on a date -- so I'm gonna go pop in a juicy monster flick, crack open a brewski or three, and scratch my crotch to my heart's content. Ahhhhh . . .
Sun., Aug. 3, 1 p.m., 2008