Archive for Funny Face

Gamine Streets

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2014 by dcairns

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Picked up DADDY LONG LEGS for a pound in a charity shop — didn’t expect too much from it, for whatever reason — but it’s lovely. Of the later Fred Astaire things I’ve seen, it struck me as better than SILK STOCKINGS, for instance — that one is haunted by the spectre of the superior NINOTCHKA. I prefer it to FUNNY FACE too, though that one arguably has better songs (but DLL has a nice bunch by Johnny Mercer).

Whereas this one should be troubled by the icky plotline — gajillionaire Fred Astaire sees Leslie Caron in an orphanage, likes what he sees, and decides to adopt her. Well, not quite: he pays for her American college education anonymously. But then she falls in love with the idea of her unseen guardian, and then he meets her, not revealing the connection, and falls in love with her.

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(The CALIGARI tradition of painted sets and painted shadows lived on, not in horror movies but in musicals. Work that one out, Kracauer!)

The clever part is that the screenplay by Phoebe and Henry Ephron has gruff, irascible supporting characters state all the objections to this May-December romance up front, voicing the audience’s own concerns in a killjoy way, forcing us to side with Fred. It helps that Caron is so irresistible.

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Director — Jean Negulesco, so we get swellegant widescreen composition

Cinematographer — Leon Shamroy, the King of Deluxe Color, so we get beautiful complimentary tinted tones. Shamroy had a slight tendency to overuse his honey and blue lighting (the orange and teal of his day) but he comes up with some lovely variations here in the night scenes.

Production designers — Lyle R. Wheeler, “the Dean of Art Directors,” and especially John DeCuir so we get stylised sets with a bold palette which never get garish in an MGM/Goldwyn manner. While THE RED SHOES was clearly an influence on the fantasy sequences, they’re full of fresh visual ideas, stuff you haven’t seen before.

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The movie is two hours long but doesn’t feel over-padded, much. And in one fantasy, Fred plays an imaginary Texas squillionaire and is VERY funny — fatuous smile, hundred-gallon hat, slow, comical movements. Of course, however ridiculous he makes himself, he’s graceful too.

Hmm, do I like any other Fox musicals? There’s THE GANG’S ALL HERE. I’ve written something about that one, too, but you won’t get to see it for a while…

Ub!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by dcairns

Weird, icky Ub Iwerks cartoon!

I love Ub Iwerks, mainly because his name is Ub Iwerks. When is Microsoft going to release an IWerks device? Like an IPad, only limp and rubbery?

Ub is a seminal figure in the history of animation, chief creator of Mickey Mouse. Breaking with Disney in 1930, Iwerks was set up in his own studio, where he attempted to rival his former boss’s success — but Ub’s sense of humour was, shall we say, a bit non-commercial.

Flip the Frog is a kind of amphbious Mickey Mouse manqué, I guess. Disturbingly, he has a humanoid girlfriend, a Boop rip-off minus the “mature bosom” mentioned by the judge in the famous Kane vs Boop lawsuit. The boobless Boop decides to flip Flip the Frog the bird and takes off with a prettyboy male Boopoid figure. So, in time-honoured LA fashion, Flip gets a new face.

Very strange stuff in the mask shop / plastic surgery. And meanwhile UnBetty is being chased by a thuggish molester. Betty Boop toons are brimming with rape menace, of course, but what’s most disturbing about this film is the long delays between threat and rescue, during which it’s hard to picture anything passing the time that doesn’t involve UnBetty actually getting savagely used. It’s also notable that these cartoons take place in a kind of lawless wild west vision of America. In a sense, most Hollywood cinema seems to assume that the Wild West never went away.

I dig the Lionel Atwill moment when Flip’s new face cracks open to reveal his true Anuran countenance beneath. This is a very strange film.

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