Moon Over Parador: Mazursky’s Weak Political Comedy

Moon_Over_Parador_posterMoon Over Parador signaled the beginning of decline in Paul Mazursky’s directing career, which would end rather poorly with the pictures Pickle and Unfaithful a decade later.

World-premiering at the 1988 Toronto Film Fest, the film proved to be both an artistic and a commercial flop.

It is a remake of the 1939 film The Magnificent Fraud, based on the unpublished short story. Caviar for His Excellency, by Charles G. Booth.

Richard Dreyfuss is extremely well cast as Jack Noah, a self-possessed, obsessive, vulnerable actor, eager to get recognition and praise, his soul burning with what he describes as “my craft.”

 

 

Moon_Over_Parador_5_mazurskyHaving just finished a straight-to-cable crime thriller in the fictional South American country of Parador, he gets the ultimate acting challenge from Roberto Strausman (Raul Julia), the Paradorian dictator’s chief advisor.

Not fornothing he is named Noah. His challenge is to impersonate the country’s dictator, who has just died.  Strausman manipulate Noah, taking him to a meat locker, where he shows him the director’s body (played by Dreyfuss’ real-life brother, Lorin).  Strausman threatens to kill him, while bringing clips of Noah’s best reviews.

Moon_Over_Parador_4_mazurskyFearful and scared, and bearing a striking resemblance to the man, Noah accepts the job. Under the exacting direction of Strausman, he follows the script precisely. Noah immediately enjoys the job’s perks, including the company of the dictator’s seductive mistress, Madonna (Sonia Braga, reliably sexy).  But soon, he realizes that he cannot conceal his real identity to her for too long.

A close call with Parador’s revolutionaries and Madonna’s brimming social conscience push Noah to take command of the role. He starts pushing a kinder, gentler social agenda, which predictably incurs Strausman’s wrath.

Will Noah play the dictator’s last act? A chance meeting with a stunt man friend (Michael Greene) inspires a caper that might affect the characters’ fates.

Moon_Over_Parador_3_mazurskyMazursky tries hard, too hard in fact, to inject wit and humor into the contrived plot, but to no avail.  Though defined by some funny and original idea, overall the film is a big misfire in conception and execution.

During a scene where Jack has to address the crowd as the Paradorian President, he ad-libs his lines and uses the text for the song “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha.

Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of Parador’s national anthem is sung against the music for “Bésame Mucho.”

The Paradorian National Anthem (“O Parador”) is sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.”

Family Affair

Moon_Over_Parador_1_mazurskyDirector Mazursky appears in a cameo (uncredited) in drag, playing Simms’ mother.

In the beginning, while both the President and Jack are in the scene, the President is played by Dreyfuss’ older brother Lorin.

Mazursky’s wife Betsy appears at a buffet table and asks, “Por favor, is it safe to eat this lettuce here?”

His daughter, Jill, plays the assistant director of the second film crew to shoot in Parador.

Cast

Moon_Over_Parador_2_mazurskyRichard Dreyfuss- Jack Noah/President Alphonse Simms

Lorin Dreyfuss- the real Alphonse Simms

Raúl Juliá- Roberto Strausmann

Sonia Braga – Madonna Mendez

Dana Delany – Jenny

Jonathan Winters – Ralph

Fernando Rey – Alejandro

Michael Greene- Clint

Polly Holliday – Midge

Milton Gonçalves – Carlo

Charo – Madame Lupe

Marianne Sägebrech – Magda Feldmarck

Sammy Davis, Jr. – Himself

Ike Pappas – Himself

Edward Asne  – Himself

Reinhard Kolldehof  – Gunther Feldmarck

 

Credits 

MPAA: PG-13,

Running time: 104 minutes.

Directed and written by Paul Mazursky

Released: September 9, 1988

DVD: August 3, 2004