Harry Baird is an African-American soldier stationed in France in the 1960s. He's given a three-day pass as a reward for his trustworthiness. In Paris, he falls in with a young white women, Nicole Berger, and they have a lot of fun dancing, drinking, strolling around. She's on a brief vacation from her store and they agree to spend the rest of the weekend at the beach. They rent a single room, have discreet sex a couple of times, laugh, run around, observe the goings on, and -- the end.
My satellite TV guide described this as the story of a black soldier who is demoted for "fraternization with a white woman" and I was expecting something entirely different, something far more dramatic.
Instead what we get are some poorly directed and acted leftover from nouvelle vague. Occasionally, a few frames will be omitted from a dialog scene, a whimsical conceit I first noticed in Goddard's "Breathless." Then, at times, especially during the non-passionate sex scenes, we get to see what the participants are imagining. The way the director lets us know that what we are seeing are imaginary scenes is that the camera slowly moves in on the side of the head of the person whose fantasies are about to be revealed. Baird's fantasies are about being a well-dressed nobleman in a huge mansion. Berger's fantasies are evidently about being gang banged by half a dozen Africans in a jungle.
The director, Melvin van Peebles, does his best to make us smile and to laugh with recognition as the awkwardness of the two principles but it doesn't work very well. We can tell when a couple are happy with one another. They hold hands and smile, perhaps a little shyly, in public. Here they laugh maniacally, skip, run around like five-year-olds with ADD, as in the Zuckerman's parody of being in love in the Police Squad movies. Watching this is like being hit over the head with a crowbar. It's impossible to take it seriously.
Of the performances, it's possible to say Harry Baird is no better than average while Nicole Berger is an accomplished actress. I can't tell if he's handsome or not because I have no way of judging, but Berger is classically attractive and has an appealing winsome quality. She died in a traffic accident at an early age, with some good work behind her.
Overall, a disappointment. Van Peebles has done other films better than this one. "Watermelon Man" had some racist elements but was also extremely funny at times.