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  • JohnSeal17 September 2003
    Burdened though it is by director Melvin Van Peebles typical editing foibles, Story of A Three Day Pass is nonetheless his greatest film, buoyed by superb performances by handsome Harry Baird, lovely doomed starlet Nicole Berger, and the unheralded Harold Brav as Baird's apoplectic commanding officer. A romantic comedy about love, racism and the United States Army, the film will raise you up only to drop you down, but it rarely resorts to cinematic cliche and will appeal to idealist and cynic alike. Beautifully shot by Michel Kelber, the film also features an absolutely top notch score which deserves some sort of recognition and is instantly atop my list of 'soundtrack most in need of a CD (re)issue'. Strongly recommended for all.
  • "The Story of a Three Day Pass"(1968) was made by Melvin Van Peebles, who's generally considered to be the father of the "blaxploitation" film owing to his 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asss Song". I had heard about "Three Day Pass" from a friend, otherwise I never would have seen it. That would have been a shame. This movie tells the tale of a black soldier named Turner, in France, recently promoted by his white commander for being "trustworthy", and given three days leave to enjoy himself. He heads to Paris. He's seen at times wandering around the city in a slow, almost anticipatory way, and we the audience get the feeling that something is going to happen. In the streets he sees a performer who's bound in chains as the bound man's partner exclaims "for centuries man has been chained...today see how a man can free himself". Soon Turner takes up with a white French girl for a three day "taboo" romance. It's a liberating experience for Turner, and also for the girl. In a fantasy scene, Turner imagines himself on a rooftop with the girl, while racists go on a rant in the street below.In many ways this is a simple movie, almost like a college film. The director uses still photos, newsreel type scenes of carnage and violence are cut in at various times,and Turner talks to his own reflection in the mirror. But this is a very satisfying a "human" movie. There's a scene early on where Turner is trying to get a girl in a beatnik looking club to dance with him. He's wearing his shades and looking cool, but she turns him down. When his sunglasses are accidentally knocked off, the girl sees the uncertainty in his eyes, sees the person, and she accepts his invitation. There's more than one time in the movie that it would appear that the three day leave may end early, on a sour note, but every time the director raises Turner back up and the good time is back on. This movie really is a lot of fun to watch. The couple laughs and plays like kids at times, there are a lot of cool 60's images, a catchy soundtrack (apparently original), and it makes the appropriate fun of Turner's overbearing commander. What more could you ask? This doesn't seem to be a very well known movie, so keep an eye out for it. "Plus fort, man, plus fort"!
  • "The Story of a Three Day Pass"(1968) was made by Melvin Van Peebles, generally considered to be the father of the "blaxploitation" film owing to his 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asss Song". I had heard about "Three Day Pass" on an episode of "Siskel and Ebert", otherwise I never would have seen it. That would have been a shame. This movie tells the tale of a black soldier named Turner, in France, recently promoted by his white commander for being "trustworthy", and given three days leave to enjoy himself. He heads to Paris. He's seen at times wandering around the city in a slow, almost anticipatory way, and we the audience get the feeling that something is going to happen. In the streets he sees a performer who's bound in chains as the bound man's partner exclaims "for centuries man has been chained...today see how a man can free himself". Soon Turner takes up with a white French girl for a three day "taboo" romance. It's a liberating experience for Turner, but destined to fail in the end. In many ways this is a simple movie, almost like a college film. The director uses still photos, newsreel type scenes of carnage and violence are cut in at various times,and Turner talks to his own reflection in the mirror. But this is a very satisfying a "human" movie. There's a scene early on where Turner is trying to get a girl in a beatnik looking club to dance with him. He's wearing his shades and looking cool, but she turns him down. When his sunglasses are accidentally knocked off, the girl sees the uncertainty in his eyes, sees the person, and she accepts his invitation. There's more than one time in the movie that it would appear that the three day leave may end early, on a sour note, but every time the dirctor raises Turner back up and the good time is back on. This movie really is a lot of fun to watch. The couple laughs and plays like kids at times, there are a lot of cool 60's images, a catchy soundtrack (apparently original), and it makes the appropriate fun of Turner's overbearing commander. What more could you ask? I felt compelled to write this review because there are no reviews of this film on the internet, not that I could find, anyway. What a shame. "The Story of a Three Day Pass" is playing all month (Jan. 1999) on the Sundance Channel. "Plus fort, man, plus fort"!
  • Melvin Van Peebles is a hard film maker to understand. Some of his films are exceptional--wonderful examples of low-budget film making as well as a film with a message. And yet, I have difficulty getting past the fact that he was the same film maker who made one of the worst films I have ever seen ("Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song")--which was inept on just about every level. I don't understand this...but i am happy I didn't stop watching after I saw "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"---otherwise I would have missed some tremendous films.

    "The Story of a Three-Day Pass" is Van Peebles' first full-length film and it really helped me appreciate the film more by watching the introduction that comes on the DVD. Van Peebles explains how he made the film in France and the movie was accepted to a film festival in California--where the film was welcomed by the same people that NEVER would have allowed him to make this film! Talk about irony. Much of this was because black film makers were not usually offered money to make movies. And, even if this WOULD have happened in the 1960s, it's HIGHLY unlikely that they would have given him a movie where the plot involves an interracial romance between a black American soldier and a white French woman! It's a shame, as it is a terrific little film.

    As the film was made in France, pickings for the leading role were naturally thin. So Van Peebles selected Harry Baird (who was born in Guyana and lived in Britain) for the lead. Yes, his accent isn't quite right--but I could make an allowance for that. And Baird did do a nice job--playing a man who has to tread the difficult path between playing the system and being a 'nice negro' and be proud. As for the female lead, Nicole Berger is sweet as the French woman who can see the man in Baird...period. Their romance is very sweet they meet and then spend a weekend together. However, Baird's character is in the US Army--and when his fellow white soldiers see him fraternizing with a white woman, his pending promotion is definitely at risk as racism is still alive and well in American culture in 1968 and such happenings were NOT tolerated.

    Despite the low budget and a few minor rough spots, I was super-impressed by this movie. It looked very professional and sounded it as well--on par with other French films of the time, even though it was made by a man with hardly any experience. The leads also were terrific and very likable--so much that you really are pulling for them throughout the film. And, on top of all this, the film had a great message. As a result, I am giving the film a 9--as compared to other low-budget films, it's head and shoulders better.

    A few of the many wonderful scenes to look for in the film is the standing at the Spanish restaurant when Baird's character thinks the man is hurling a racial insult at him, when the black ladies' group comes to visit the base as well as the love scenes. Wow...what a film.

    By the way, in a nod to French sensibilities at the time, it's not surprising that the characters were very sexual in the film (though compared to "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" the nudity and sexuality is VERY muted and fits with the story). But parents might want to think twice about having younger kids see this or at least reinforce the old expression "Kids: don't try this at home".
  • Although the movie was released in 1968,American soldiers based in France was already a thing of the past ,for General De Gaulle left NATO in 1966 ,and the American had to move on.There was a base not far from my house when I was a kid and I remember them quite well.So let's say it takes place around 1965.

    The sadly missed Nicole Berger died in a car crash soon after making this movie which must have been her very last (actually she died in 1967).The best scenes are the ones between her and her black co-star .They display spontaneity and their efforts to speak English and French go straight to the heart .Their three days of happiness are almost three days in paradise to the girl who says "seems that I've lived all my life with you" .Some cracks in the mirror appear now and them but racism is kept to the minimum and avoids melodrama .

    What is less good is the director's infatuation with the French Nouvelle Vague which expresses in the first and last sequences : some actors overplay (the captain and the black lady) to no avail and Paris is first filmed a la "A Bout De soufflé" .The soldier has even an imaginary Doppelganger who lectures him now and then.

    Nice sequences filmed in Etretat,Normandie.And ,unlike Ritt's "Paris Blues" starring Sidney Poitier (1962) or Daves'"Kings go forth" (1959),Van Peebles does not try to fool the audience by showing France as the country where "racism does not exist".
  • rmax30482310 July 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    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.