Rip Torn as Henry Miller, living in the world of French hustlers and tramps, scraping by, famously arranging those weekly meals with acquaintances and screwing them all up by playing with the wives or cutting out the annoying ones. We never see him writing, but we are read sections of his works, and certain “blue” words are oft repeated especially the favorite “C” word I won’t bother to use here. For me it’s the least attractive of genital references but for Miller it was a delicious word.

Most of the story, just focusing on the film, is about Miller trying in vain to get employed and support himself. When his wife, played by the lovely Ellen Burstyn sees his condition, winds up covered in bugs and begs for a bath she can’t seem to get she quits and goes back to the states. Miller begs borrows and steals to stay alive, mostly just drinking and spending money on prostitutes who are seldom discernible from anyone else. Everything is a hustle.

The finale is a hilarious moment of him encouraging his friend to ditch a bad marriage, and go back to the states. The fellow pulls all his money from the bank and drops it on Miller’s lap to give the raging lady. Miller doesn’t even wave good bye but tears up the letter and keeps the funds. Normally this would not be a heroic deed, but instead a foul one, but in this case we’re afforded the best outcome for the hardest working hustler.

Rip Torn is a delight in this role, and I feel a bit lousy that I’ve never really paid the actor much attention except on 30Rock where he was terrific. The only bit of the film that’s a shame is that it’s simply done in the 60s rather than the era it happened. I’m sure no one had the funds to recreate Miller’s 1920s Paris.

This is 4.28 on PRIME . . . now where is Quiet Times In Clichy?

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