Euphoria #4: When Nature Calls

While I wait for David Ehrenstein’s euphoric nomination to appear on Youtube, I’m jumping ahead to present my partner Fiona Watson’s feelgood film footage. She considered a variety of candidates, many of which Mr. Ehrenstein would approve of, I’m sure: Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s rendition of Moses Supposes from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN; Anne Miller dancing to Too Darn Hot in KISS ME KATE or Prehistoric Man in ON THE TOWN; the Marx Brothers going to war in DUCK SOUP (the scene that cures Woody Allen of depression in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS). It’s interesting how musical numbers tend to dominate the field of Cinema Euphoria. Maybe that’s why, in these troublous times, the musical is making a comeback, albeit frequently in a half-arsed fashion (Fiona: “Watching MOULIN ROUGE is like having your eyes pinned open, like the Ludovico Treatment, while someone throws glitter in them, for two hours”).

Anyhow, I was carefully monitoring Fiona’s joy-levels as she watched the clips, and the clear winner was this one:

You probably all know it, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. Bear in mind, this isn’t about the best cinema, merely the most bliss-inducing, and that’s clearly not the same thing — but this is still a magnificent sequence. The animation of the apes is impressive, they have real weight and substance and meat on their bones, and real bones too. Unlike Jessica Rabbit they aren’t unstructured plastic excrescences, and unlike the Little Mermaid their features don’t float, unmoored, on their faces, like flotsam.

Then there’s the song. The Sherman Brothers had a few years of being able to do no wrong, with fantastic work in THE JUNGLE BOOK, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and MARY POPPINS. Go listen if you don’t believe me. “Me Ole Bamboo” from CCBB is the song all of Scotland will be dancing to tonight.

Fiona and I both groove equally to the scat singing and the more coherent, yet still non sequiteur-ish interjections like “Take me home, daddy!” That always cracks me up. And the words “Not yet Balloo!” have an iconic resonance in our household.

What’s also cool is that when Fiona first saw this, as a tiny tot, she didn’t like it, was seriously freaked out by it, in fact. “I don’t like the monkey! Why are his arms so long?” she cried as she was manoevred from the auditorium. It’s one of the nice things about growing up, we can appreciate the appeal of a singing oran-outan without experiencing the primal terror than initially accompanies his every movement.

And if that’s not something to feel euphoric about, I don’t know what is.

(Euphoria #3 should be along sometime early in the new year)

4 Responses to “Euphoria #4: When Nature Calls”

  1. Great choice! Louis Prima! !!!!! Casting him as King Louie and Phil Harris as Baloo was inspired; they absolutely make the film.

    My euphoric moment would probably also be a musical number: Gene Kelly’s dance on roller skates in It’s Always Fair Weather. For a cinematic depiction of floating two feet off the ground because of love, you can’t do much better.

    A different scene also keeps coming to mind as I think about this: a sex scene in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Maborosi. It’s not the sex that makes the scene but what it represents: the first hint that an arranged marriage, burdened by the lingering sadness and guilt that prey on the wife because of her first husband’s suicide, may be able to break through into a real love. The kids are away on a hot summer day, and we see the husband and wife beginning to, for the first time, become real people for each other. The wife smiles and laughs for the first time since the opening scenes; temporarily, she radiates joy. I suppose it’s less a euphoric scene than a hopeful, moving one, so maybe it doesn’t qualify. But it’s one of my favorite moments in cinema.

  2. Believe it or not, in culturally deprived Scotland, this was really all we knew of Prima until a recent BBC doc. He really was a force of nature, and his singing partners were alway incredible too, it seems.

    Great nominations! I’ll get the Kelly online soon (one can’t really ignore him in any discussion of Cinema Euphoria, as Malcolm McDowell could testify).

    Need to see MABOROSI now!

  3. JUNGLE BOOK is definitely one of my favourite Disney films (if not thee no. 1). Despite the energy that accompanies song and dance, there’s something ‘dreary’ regarding the overall tone of the film (colours seem muted, voices almost have that early Simpsons stilted fidelity and in the end, whereas it may be beneficially for Mogli to return to the human kingdom, you’re sad to see him leave), almost gives me the impression of elation that comes when watching a rainy day from your bedroom window.

    I’ve not yet decided on my choice but there are a couple off the top of my head that immediately spring to mind (probably because they’re powerful enough to make me shed a tear… and they may seem odd as I tend to emote to camera movements rather than character):

    1. The moment in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST when Jill first arrives in Sweetwater, the camera elevates over the train station to reveal the town whilst Morricone’s track ‘Jill’s America’ reaches a crescendo. That bit gets me *every* time.

    2. In Angelopoulos’s THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS, there is (amongst many) an almost ten minute sequence shot that beautifully depicts political shifts in power through a “musical” standoff between the Communists and Fascists (only at the end does the latter draw a gun in a kind of phallic conquest). The moment I refer to arises mainly because of “all that came before” with respect to choreography (with camera working as an all-knowing eye, moving itself cautiously to observe at safe distances) so that, after the storm, Communists now fled the scene (no deaths or injuries), a sombre musical piece begins to play in the dance hall, prompting the remaining fascist males to homo erotically embrace each other for this “final dance”… as they do so, the camera makes its way through the crowd until it comes back into contact with one of our players who has been viewing the entire event from the back of the room (that final camera trajectory is the moment of euphoria I refer to).

    Failing those, I’m sure if I rewatched Sturges’ UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, I could find something from Rex Harrison’s “reactive” performance that would fit the bill quite easily.

    Happy new year to all.

  4. Nice choices — and varied!

    Let me know what you decide and we’ll get it on the blog.

    I love the backgrounds in JUNGLE BOOK, I want to go to those places. Although not as much as the “locations” in Miyazaki.

    And we all hate that little girl that turns up to seduce Mowgli away to hearth and home. Bitch!

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