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Riviera Cocktail: Edward Quinn

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(Aug 10, 2016)
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No other photographer has captured the far-flung social and cultural life of the Cote d’Azur in the fifties with such intelligent verve and remarkably gentle irony as the Irishman Edward Quinn (1920 - 1997). For over a decade, Quinn showed a perfect blend of persistence and discretion in his daring exploration of the social jungle on the French Riviera. In this iridescent epicenter of high life and big business, of art, music and literature, he managed to discover incomparable gems. Riviera Cocktail encompasses an entire age, tracing the path followed by Edward Quinn from his early pin-up photography to his unconventional portrayal of all the great stars and, finally, to his relationships, as a photographer, with Pablo Picasso and Georg Baselitz.
In their soundtrack, Franco Ambrosetti and his band “European Legacy” enter into an exhilarating and compelling dialogue with Quinn’s visual universe, combining the contemporary with the nostalgic in a compellingly musical compliment to an age that has gone down in history as the “Golden Fifties.”  In 1949 Edward Quinn was barely surviving as a photographer until he finally realized that he could make a living out of his fascination with the beautiful, the rich, and the famous on the Cote d’Azur. He soon built up a network of helpful barmen, secretaries, bellhops and service staff at luxury hotels along the coast. Calling himself “Edward Quinn, Photographer, Nice,” he launched his lifelong career, which, seen through the lens of time, can at last be interpreted and enjoyed as an invaluable photographic evocation of a lost world.

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Heinz Bütler s documentary traces the career of Edward Quinn, a photographer who recorded celebrity life on the French Riviera in the 1950s. Quinn struggled as a pinup shooter until realizing that a magazine-buying public hungered for glamorous yet tastefully insightful images of stars from Hollywood and Europe. Quinn s discretion and knack for being in exactly the right spot at the right moment yielded a number of notable portraits and candid pictures. Featuring archival footage of the genial Quinn (who died in 1997) talking about his life and work, Riviera Cocktail looks at how the shutterbug established a network of contacts in service occupations (working in hotels, etc.), who helped him determine the whereabouts of Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, and other silver screen luminaries. On the minus side, the efforts to recreate a 1950s style and tone with a jazz score by Franco Ambrosetti (viewers also spend time watching Ambrosetti s band discussing in non-subtitled Italian Quinn s iconic subjects) is a distracting intrusion in an otherwise fascinating profile (the story of Quinn s adventures with Pablo Picasso should not be missed). Recommended, overall. --Video Librarian

The name of Irish photographer Edward Quinn remains synonymous with a specific decade and region: the Cote d Azur of the 1950s. In launching his career, Quinn quickly recognized the public s twin fascinations with international celebrity and ritzy living, and thus spent years trolling up and down the French Riviera, capturing indelible images of the high life among the exorbitantly rich. Heinz Bütler s biographical documentary Riviera Cocktail: Edward Quinn, Photographer, Nice traces the life and career of this iconic figure and purveyor of pop culture, from his early days as a pinup photographer, through his celebrity liaisons and the images he captured on the Cote d Azur, through the relationships he forged with such giants as Baselitz and Picasso late in life. --Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide

This documentary is a fascinating photographic recreation of the innocent fifties on the Cote d Azur. Many famous visitors Sophia Loren, Bridget Bardot, Kim Novak, Audrey Hepburn were candidly photographed by Edward Quinn. In his later, less glamorous, career, Quinn switched to photographing artists, particularly his friend Pablo Picasso. His remarkable Picasso photos are a valuable legacy of the great artist. Riviera Cocktail is well edited with cuts to beautiful beach scenes, Quinn s photos, European Legacy, and commentary from Quinn s widow and narrator. Franco Ambrosetti and his European Legacy jazz ensemble provide the outstanding soundtrack for Riviera Cocktail. The documentary is extremely well done with high quality color, sound and jazz music. Unfortunately, some sections of the documentary are in foreign languages without subtitles. These include the comments of the European Legacy band in Italian, and brief commentary in German from German artist Georg Baselitz. In addition, the DVD menu doesn t include a chapter menu. This would be helpful as the documentary is 97 minutes long. Still, I can highly recommend Riviera Cocktail to those universities and colleges that have photography, visual art and journalism programs. It is probably too specialized for most public libraries. Edward Quinn was a remarkable man and his pictures seem likely to endure. Highly Recommended. --Educational Media Reviews Online

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