Friday, August 24, 2007

Last Funny Face

One final Funny Face musing...

The ultra-sophisticated, ultra-classy, ultra-graceful Fred Astaire and the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-classy, ultra-graceful Audrey Hepburn together in a movie, should be ultra-sophisticated, ultra-classy, ultra-graceful. Well, it is. But that doesn't always make for ultra-exciting.

Don't get me wrong. Watching the two on screen together is a delight. But as much fun as you have with the them, you never really feel as if your are in the midst of a great love affair. Fred is very charming and knowing, but it seems as that if Audrey were to leave him he would be fine in a week or two. Same with Audrey.

But lets talk about the dancing. Their first number, set to the title song, is great. it takes place in a photographer's darkroom (remember those?) It doesn't try for much. And it achieves it. Very nice little "Getting to Know You Number." Very much along the lines of the dances he would do with Ginger Rodgers at the start of the Astaire/Rogers movies.

But the big smoochy number somehow fails to deliver. As lovely as the dress is that Hepburn wears, it just isn't made for dancing. It is made for being photographed. Also, the fact that it is a wedding dress somehow adds a dimension of "commitment" to the number that doesn't help. We are not allowed to see two people fall in love, as she is already "commited." When combined with Astaire's extremely casual, sweater combo they just look like a very nice, odd couple.

Also, the location shoot overwhelms the story. It is the most beautiful, picture postcard scene behind a church, next to a babbling brook, complete with wite swans and yellow flowers on the greenest lawn you will ever see. But everytime the camera moves you are distracted by the same said swans paddling into view or the amazing Roman aquaduct that just appeared behind the dancing duo.
Hepburn once remarked how disappointed she was when she was shooting the scene. Evidently the grass was very wet and soggy. So whenever she was moving, she would just feel herself sinking into the mud. Not such a wonderful feeling psychologicaly when you are dressed in white.

So instead of enjoying dancing with her idol, she was worring about making sure her shoes didn't kick up pieces of muck.

When I first saw the pas de deux, I was a bit underwhelmed. But after having watched the movie a few times, I can now see the dance for the well constructed piece that it is. Writing this I realize that it is a beautiful piece of film making. But as a dance lover (as opposed to being a cinephile), there is a part of me that would love to see the same dance on a soundstage with Hepburn in a dress that moved well and Astaire in a more elegant outfit.

That would probably also have allowed for more takes, as location shooting puts you on a tighter schedule.

Before I leave, I just need to give one more kudo to the choreographer, Eugene Loring, who had to develop a dance that could be performed on two sloping lawns seperated by a brook that the dancers traveled across on a raft.



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