Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #16 (From FUNNY GIRL)

182 posts in this topic

Today's forum is about the song "People" from the film Funny Girl.

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own)

  1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?
     
  2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?
     
  3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) I feel if she had belted out the song it would have taken away the meaning the song was to have by doing it the way she did it made it more emotional and sweet.

2) You can tell the 2 characters are taken with each other she is singing and he is looking on adoringly.

3) It is letting the dance and movement tell the story she is both whimsical but yet emotional giving it a stonger stance for the movie.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the gentle approach taken with the song. I think a bolder treatment would have taken the gentleness from her character. The camera can get in close so she does not have to make the grand gestures of the state.  Streisand is a master.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. This was a tender moment needing a "tender" tone of the song. Having belted out the song would have taken the "tenderness" of the moment.

2. One can easily tell how both Nicky & Fanny like each other. As she sings, he watches her.

3. What I see is Fanny wearing her heart on her sleeve, letting Nicky know what her feelings are. The camera gently moves with Streisand throughout the majority of the song but it does glance back at Sharif to show that he too is interested in her.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pardon me if I am distracted by the fabulous Omar Sharif. I wish we were analyzing his exciting seduction song "You Are Woman I Am Man." As it is I wonder why the great William Wyler staged the scene with Sharif in it at all; I always feel a bit uncomfortable when one character is singing to another character who gets to stand around watching the performance, with just a reaction shot here and there interrupting a big solo. After all what can Sharif do in this scene but just observe Streisand from afar or in reaction shots, trying hard not to move so as not upstage her?

1.How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

Belting is a specific technique of singing by which a singer brings his or her chest register above its natural break at a loud volume, often described as sustained yelling. If Sharif is in the scene with Streisand, and she is engaging in sustained yelling at him, the audience would be sure that Fanny and Nick are never going to get together.

Consequently, Sharif's presence dictates that Streisand sing the song more intimately (even though the two are really not in close proximity to each other). The lyrics of the song, however, make the audience wonder why Streisand  and Sharif aren't closer to each other ("People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.") Are we watching two personalities who are so aloof and independent that they are not the lucky people who need people? If that is the case then Streisand's somewhat wistful tone makes sense. Otherwise, Wyler should have placed these two in such a way that they show the audience that they need each other. Or, he could have let Streisand flirt with Sharif, had Sharif exit the scene, and then let her belt her heart out. That would have been a homely girl's plea for a lover and intimacy.
 
2.Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

I admit I had to watch this scene several times in order to find any way in which these two are relating to each other. In the beginning of the scene, Sharif is warning Streisand that he doesn't like to get too involved, and keeps himself free from amorous attachments. She takes his meaning and wonders if such a singular soul is happy or if he needs intimate friends or lovers in his life to really make him happy.

Wyler then has them walk away from the alley, with Streisand leading, not too close to Sharif, and we see their backs for the first few bars of the song. So she is basically rejecting his proposition for singularity. Once they reach the iron fence, Wyler has Streisand in profile and Sharif's back is still to the audience, after all this is Streisand's song. After Streisand starts to walk to the steps we see only her until much later Wyler cuts to a reaction shot of Sharif. Not very interesting, nor does it advance our understanding of what Sharif is thinking of Streisand openly wooing him in this fashion.

The only thing we are left to think is that Sharif is not persuaded by her thoughts on how much he should need people, especially her. Streisand then emotes about lovers being very special people alone in the camera's view, until we see her on the steps, and Sharif looks miles away, not moving toward her at all. Streisand would like to get together with him, but she wants love and he likes to be footloose and fancy free. She does not appear to be convincing him otherwise. Once we end with her close up we realize these two aren't getting together anytime soon.
 
3.How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

In addition to my comments on Wyler's blocking and editing to highlight the remoteness between Streisand and Sharif, Wyler shows us how isolated her character is in her quest to remain an original talent who can't necessarily be pigeon-holed. After all, Brice is not going to make it based on her looks; her talent is really all she has.

   

  • Like 7
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

The song would have been performed as if there was a debate going on, she needed to prove a point.  The more subdued version gives you a feeling of a personal conversation going on between Fanny and Nicky.
 

2.  Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

The scene starts out as with the two being playful. As the song starts, Fanny is basically, letting Nicky know how she  feels about him. Especially when the part about "Lovers" starts. She has an embarrassed look on her face, but she continues to reveal her true feelings for him. Nicky watches on, then as you look at him, he seems to understand where she is coming from.
 

3.  How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction

The camera seems to be placed behind the characters. The camera mimics, the characters movements, starting and stopping. Just enough so you did not feel intrusive.  It felt like I was part of the scene. 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) I think that in order to answer this question you need to remove Ms. Streisand from the equation. The song "People" and Barbra Streisand will forever be as one, no denying that. If you were to have given the part of Fanny  to a young Ethel Merman or a Betty Hutton, you would have had an eleven o'clock number that would have been a real toe tapper...but you would have also lost all of the subtle nuances given to us by Ms. Streisand.

2) Fanny is telling Nicky that for a man who needs nothing (other than that which money can buy) he needs to look inside himself and realize that you cannot love alone. 

3) After Nick speaks his last line the entire rest of the scene is directed to showcase the talents of Barbra Streisand. Nick is needed just to let the audience know who she is singing about. "Ah yes", the audience nods in unison, "she is singing about people needing people but she really means that Nick needs Fanny as much if not more than Fanny need Nick. Why, without the other they are incomplete. I hope there is an intermission so we can go and collectively pat ourselves on our backs."

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

I find Streisand's performance of "People" to be almost conversational.  She's explaining something to Him so there is no need to yell/belt out the lyric.  She is telling him about herself and expressing that she believes him to be the same kind of person that she sees herself as being, (IE: someone who needs others).   To have belted out this song at this point would have taken away from the meaning of the lyric and the tone of the entire scene.

  1. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

They are clearly interested in one another and are at this point in the relationship trying to learn about one another.  The performance of "People" in this scene the character of Fanny comes across as shy.  She wants him to know this about her, but yet she's somewhat embarrassed to admit it out loud.   Nicky is intrigued by Fanny.  He's interested in her as a woman, but at this point I would guess that she is different from the women he usually associates with.

  1. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

As the song begins she is walking away from him, much of the song she doesn't even look at him.  This shows her shyness at being in this situation with a man that she clearly feels that she's not good enough or pretty enough for. To her he is out of her league.  He stays a distance away giving her the space she needs to feel comfortable with what she is saying to him.  As she sings he watches her intently listening to every word.  At one point leaning slightly toward her, but not moving any closer.  As if he were to move closer to her it would break the mood and she would stop what she was doing and wouldn't continue to communicate with him her feelings. 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it would have been as an effective if the song had been done in a theatrical fashion. This performance feels more intimate, natural, and conversational, as if she is singing directly to the man.

As the lyrics are sung, the woman sort of looks away into the distance as if in a daydream, but the man looks admiringly at her, smiling.

The direction/blocking is interesting. I really like the final shot, where you see her on the stairs hitting the final note and the man in the edge of the frame, smiling.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #16 (FROM FUNNY GIRL):

“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going…And you, and you, and you, you’re gonna love me.” (from Dreamgirls)

1. If Barbara belted "People," she would've scared Omar and people.  Personally, I find Streisand to be saccharine and hammy but this is a beautifully controlled performance of a fantastic song.  (Although, because of my bias, I felt that she was about to go over-the-top at any moment.)

2.  While they show clear mutual admiration, they decide that lone wolves of a feather flock apart.  As she plaintively sings "People," she further distances herself by climbing the stairs, effectively putting herself on a pedestal.  At this point, it's ambiguous whether she's singing the song ironically to him or herself.

3.  This scene is all about Babs.  She leads Omar and the camera by walking backwards, facing us.  When she's on the stairs, the camera circles around her showing Omar in the distant background far below her. At the end, Omar must be wondering if she needs "one very special person" or "people who need [her]."

 

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.    How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?


The song as sung is very intimate and personal. Every note Streisand sings, every mannerism she makes brings us deeper and deeper inside her heart and mind. I cannot imagine it sung any other way. Absolutely, Streisand has the pipes to belt it out and I do recall times when she performed this beautiful song when she did. But to do so in this scene where she is opening up to Nick and to us the audience her deepest most intimate feelings and longings about life, about her relationship with him would do the character of Fanny Brice and therefore the musical an injustice. Streisand hits the perfect blending of pathos and vulnerability in this scene. Drawing us in closer and closer as the scene progresses. We and Nick can't take our eyes off of her.

2.    Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?


In the beginning of the scene when they are acting out their parts hidden behind their day-to-day, “grown-up pride” they are friendly and flirty standing face to face. However, as the scene continues and she prepares to begin her song Streisand turns her back on Sharif, walking away though she turns back towards him from time to time while he pursues her. There is still connection but Streisand is beginning to pull away out of self-consciousness or apprehension or both emotions. 


They stop and Streisand begins singing but she finds it difficult to look at Sharif. She looks down or closes her eyes but not at him. She runs her hand on the railing as the song grows more introspective as if she is caressing him. The emotion Streisand is feeling in this moment of the scene is too intimate, too close so she slowly breaks away and begins to climb the stairs yet still facing him. He is wise enough to recognize her distress so stays at a distance while still watching her and smiling. 


As the song enters the lyrics regarding lovers she is restless and can no longer even face him. She pulls away further to the farthest side of the staircase, closes her eyes and sings. She is totally absorbed in her own world. Sharif is still physically present and she is aware of this but nothing now exists but the words and the feelings the words evoke in her. Eyes shut, head thrown back in reserved abandonment she is sharing with this man and the audience her deepest feelings. The ones she's always hidden behind her mask of humor and boldness. We see that it has all been a ruse. That she is vulnerable and afraid and in this moment, unguarded and unsure.

3.    How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.


With the editing we get only the bare bones of the scene. There are no extraneous props or shots. The director has boiled down the scene to the sparse mise en scene of a darkened city alley, two people and a staircase. And that is how it is edited. There is nothing to distract us or to cause emotions within us other than the profound feelings being evoked by the actors’ actions and that of the song.


Sharif's reactions are consistent yet he extends no encouragement to have us react in any way inauthentic to what we are personally experiencing. Streisand is the heartbeat of the scene. She holds us spellbound by her performance. The lighting, the limited setting, the camera angles especially the close-ups of her singing hold us in the palm of her hand as she takes us along with her on this very intimate journey inside her true self.


Her singing is perfection. She restrains her marvelous voice yet is still able to inflect such strong emotion in her words. She shouts without shouting, punches certain words and phrases with an uncommon ability to keep her voice strong yet restrained thus evoking empathy and compassion from us. She embodies the opposite sensitivity to what her character has shown us till now. Her performance is masterful.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

Had Streisand been more theatrical and expressive, the essence of her character would’ve then been represented as a far less emotional, thoughtful, naive and vulnerable character. It’s Streisand’s facial expressions and lack of physical movement that contribute the song’s emotional and relatable weight.

2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

The characters start in the same physical and emotional direction as the lyrics begin. Once she says “but maybe we ain’t”, then both characters stop moving - as if to say again - even emotionally. Sharif then transitions from being a participant to becoming an attentive observer, as if he’s listening to understand her with his thoughtful expression upon his face yet at the same time, giving Streisand’s character her needed secure space on the stoop as her direction turns as she faces away from Sharif’s character to finish the song. It ends with her eyes closed in thought.

3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

With every new topic, from children to lovers, her expressions are unique. When singing about children, she’s more playful with smiles, slight chuckles and wonder. When singing about lovers, her face dawns a much more serious, stoic and thoughtful expression as if to dig into a past memory that only she knows and has yet to share with Sharif or even the audience. Her blocking is minimal which allows her singing to own center stage. She ends up on a higher plane (the stoop) with Sharif looking up at her, where at the beginning of the scene, they were equals on level ground.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Daily Dose #16 "Funny Girl" 

Story of Fanny Brice aka Fania Borach born 1891 ...died 1951 ...famous for her character Baby Snooks

Soon as I read Baby Snooks I instantly thought of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" 1962  starring Bette Davis & Joan Crawford

The old lady (Davis) dressed as a has-been child star Baby Snooks singing "I Wrote A Letter to Daddy" is hard to ever forget & Fanny Brice was on radio & 45 years old when she did the Baby Snooks Show & (Wiki) said she insisted on dressing up as a child

Brice in was in  the Zeigfeld Follies of 1921 & looks like she had a rocky first marriage to a thief, liar, scoundrel, con man & swindler ...multiple marriages & this given more meaning to the song Barbara Streisand sing in the clip for today's daily dose

"People Who need People" the lecture said this song was not written for Streisand & she was not first choice for the role of Fanny Brice...I think many people believe this song was written for Streisand b/c she certainly made it her own...I thought it was written for her :)

   The clip opens w/ Streisand (Brice) & Omar Sharif (Nicky Arnstein)conversing about relationships...'I like to be free' he says to her...'we travel single' she says to him

Are they happy? Are they lucky?

'half not a whole' she sings'

In real life they do marry & then he runs away from the law & the relationship breakdown of Brice's personal life

The song is sad & lonely & in some cases apparently realistic...choosing the wrong mate can only lead to unhappiness

The colors in the clip scene are sepia toned soft browns & beautiful to look at..the old posters on the walls & Joe's Barber Shop...looked like hair cuts were .10 cents but I could only see part of it

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. If Streisand had sung "People" in a more theatrical manner, the song would have sounded exaggerated and would not have matched her character's emotions.

2. The beginning of the song starts out as Nicky and Fanny having small talk and flirting with each other.  As the song progresses, Fanny begins to let her guard down and allows herself to be vulnerable around Nicky.

3. The scene is shot primarily with close ups of Streisand, allowing the audience to see how Streisand expresses herself through the song.  The scene also has the camera alternate between Streisand and Sharif to show each of their reactions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. This is a song with weighty meaning. Streisand sings it with introspection. We're looking at a basic human need that impacts our emotional happiness, safety and sense of belonging. You can't drop an emotional weight like this in the form of a show-stopping, theatrical number. What would be lost is the emotional impact of what is emanating from within.

2. The walking together, separating and and the adoring and sometimes the look of admiration come through. I think their acting expresses each character's desires to have what the other person has but may seem out of reach given their current situation. The words acknowledge this as a basic need.

3. I like the walking. It's slow and they separate. Nick stops and sits on the railing and Fanny continues down the street until she is on the steps. The camera follows her until she is on the steps where it moves from left to right. The entire scene is shot so that she is exposed on all sides. No tricks, not strings. It's just her and the softness in the delivery of the words allow her deepest soul to be revealed. I know this clip doesn't show the end of the scene where she is humming the song and the lyrics are in her head as she walks back to the bar but that scene allows us to see that all of this truly resonates inside of her. Wonderful performance. 

My only problem with all of Streisand's films (except perhaps Yentl) is that she needs to lose the long fingernails. In this case they made no sense when she was a girl on Henry Street. They would be believable once she was a famous Zigfield girl. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1-Had Streisand gone for a more traditional, theatrical belting out of "People" it would have been just that, a "performance" (by a performer, playing a performer!) without the soul of the message of the song. We needed some intimacy to feel for the characters. I would however argue that this is not the most natural rendition of the song possible, some of her movements do feel a little affected, a touch choreographed, but it is certainly a tone down from her (and Brice's) typical style.

2-Eye contact, and the lack thereof are the most important moments in this song, as well as physical distance. The entire passage about "lovers" is sung without one moment of Streisand glancing at Shariff, not one look...this supports her character's self consciousness, and clear fear of rejection, she doesn't want to know if he doesn't want her back. She uses constant touch of items, railing, staircase, to project her intimate feelings.

3-Again we go to distance as the main character in this number. He follows her, but at great distance, she keeps her back to him, not letting him (or the audience) see her expression, there is always a physical barrier, the fence, the stair rail, he is not allowed to get near, she has a safety barrier to break her fall if he doesn't want to get close. We barely see Shariff's reaction, this is about her, not him, and the direction makes that clear.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that if "People" had been filmed as a "BIG" production number, it would have taken away the intimacy of the words and how Fanny is really expressing her inner thoughts. She is portrayed as a shy, almost frightened person. Nicky doesn't really come too close to her in the scene. He is like the rest of the audience, watching and listening.

The blocking of the scene makes us look at Fanny. She keeps moving away from Nicky until she is on the steps above him and the street and well frankly, anytime Barbra sings that song (as herself or as Fanny), you have to watch her and just absorb the words.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

Unlike theatre, film magnifies the emotion, so for Streisand to belt the song and be more theatrical would have made the emotions exaggerated and over the top and we wouldn’t feel as compassionate towards Brice in this number. The opening of the scene is an intimate discussion between the two characters on what their lives are now and finding that, from different perspectives, their lives are similar. They lyrics themselves are more reflective of Brice’s fragile emotions. She wants to put herself out there and open herself to love but is fearful of rejection, especially because she feels Arnstein is so out of her league. If she began (and sustained) the song in a more theatrical fashion, it would negate the intimacy they just created.

 

Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

Brice begins the song very soft and slow, even segueing into talking portions of the lyric. She is beginning to open up to Arnstein. As the emotions pour out of here, she can become more expressive and theatrical. Because of the gradual crescendo of the piece, Brice goes from being fearful of rejection to showing her desire that she truly wants to be in that kind of relationship that she feels is out of her grasp.

 

How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

Up to this point, Brice has absolute confidence in her talent, but never sees herself as an attractive woman. She is enamored of Arnstein, but simultaneously, doesn’t believe he could fall in love with someone like her. In this scene, she is at “home” in Henry Street. Brice keeps her distance from Arnstein, as well as keeping objects between them (lamp post, stair bannister). And yet, his focus is completely on her throughout the scene.

She looks away on the line “Lovers are very special people.” She is both embarrassed to express her feelings and fearful of rejection because she feels they are from two different worlds but, as the camera pulls back, we see Arnstein leaning at the railing, looking very much at home in her area of New York.

The scene ends with Brice in the foreground, Arnstein in the background. She has ascended the stairs almost as if it were a stage, a place where Brice is the most comfortable (and now Arnstein is in the “audience” looking up at her). This will also foreshadow the end of their relationship because he would always be in the background.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?  Fanny is singing "People", as if she is having a conversation with Arnstein.  She is highly introspective, emotional and hopeful.  If she had emoted as if she was in a "show", the intimacy of the scene would have been lost.

Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?  As the scene leads into song, Arnstein and Fanny are very conversational. When Fanny begins to sing, she becomes thought provoking and emotional.  She is center stage with her delivery, but Arnstein is in the background looking at her with a smile that indicates his agreement.  

How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.  Fanny's move to the stairs allows her character to express, on her own, her feelings for Arnstein.  The colors are muted and bland as if Fanny is a bit hesitant to allow her feeling to be known.  With Arnstein looking on from the background, it gives Fanny the ability to admit her feelings, with honesty and optimism, about their future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. This song reflects the character"s consideration of what is important in life. Is she even singing about herself?  Maybe  having an inner conversation about what she wants or needs.  It is subdued and controlled to have sung it any other way would have lost its impact.

2. It is a very quiet setting and the mood and or emotional changes occur in the song.  At the beginning we see Nicky's reaction from behind, the slight tilt of his head.  From a distance he doesn't take is eyes off her, indicating his interest in her feelings.  The emotional high points come in the perfromance of the song.  It is all very intimate though they never touch and move further away from each other.   As the song builds so does the emotional energy. 

3. The blocking of this scene is interesting in that the characters slowly move away from each other even when Streisand is singing the song people needing people, is she singing about others or herself.  Towards the beginning of the scene she has grabbed the street light pole, she moves slowly away towards the stairs, he approaches and then stands backs and listens, watching intently. She is holding the railing at first, perhaps a bit insecure, then moves away, free to express herself.  This blocking allows Streisand to become lost in the moment.  Nicky sees another side of her character.  Fanny Brice the person rather than the performer.  I think if the director had her standing closer to Sharif with little movement there would have been much less freedom in the performance.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That scene didn’t seem to call for the song to be sung in any other way than the way it was sung. Perhaps because that’s how we know it to be sung. 

The song does show so much emotion. I always thought this was the scene where she was able to let her guard down and let the two characters really connect. That was accomplished while Sharif just admired her, that says a lot. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel Barbra's less emotional singing of People helps the audience concentrate on the storyline.  She is not there to give a concert.

I feel that as the song crescendos so do the emotions of the stars, with the looks Sharif is giving Streisand.  You can see that there is more interest on his part.

I don't really know how to explain the blocking as I am just a newbie to all of this movie director/producer lingo.  I do feel that by the end of the song you feel the connection between the two compared to the beginning of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is not the most effective scene since I don’t see any chemistry between Streisand and Shariff. They are just acting out a scene while Streisand does what she does best, sing. The director uses lighting and camera angle to try to downplay Streisand’s nascent acting ability and help her.

When Fanny begins to sing, she walks with her back to Nicky and turns toward him for each phrase. At first, Nicky’s back is always to the audience, in the shadows and he walks off to left of the camera. The camera is just beyond his right shoulder. His dark suit, position and the lighting give focus on Fanny who is right-side-light. This cues the audience that she is in control, the performer, about to sing something important. She is not on a literal stage but the stage is set. When she begins the words “people”, her eyes are down-cast and she brushes the railing, shyly and coyly. Those gestures are meant to show that while she is usually brash, in this moment, she is allowing herself to be vulnerable, unfamiliar territory to her. When she turns and backs up to the rail, her hips sway just a bit in a flirtatious manner but she quickly moves away, again, back to the camera, uncomfortable to show the depths of her desire. Throughout, her eyes are closed, not looking at Nicky. When the camera cuts to Nicky, he is leaning on the rail, interested. When she begins to sing about lovers, the camera cuts in to a closeup and she uses her shoulders in sexy, enticing gestures. Fanny doesn’t see herself as attractive so her incessant clowning has been a cover for her insecurity. Here, she is exposing herself, hopeful, but uses the song as a cover. Again, though, she doesn’t dare look at Nicky for fear that she will break down to her insecure self. When she sings, “one very special person,” the camera backs to a medium shot which includes Nicky, inferring that they will get together since he is her special person. Streisand’s long fingers are distracting as she uses them to sing about half becoming whole. As she belts out the final phrase, her eyes are closed in euphoria, Nicky looking on.

Shariff’s acting here is wooden, detached. There is a disconnect between these two performers which does not help the scene. Streisand was not a seasoned actress at this point in her career. Her voice could sell as song but the performance lacks the physicality and assuredness of a good actor. Perhaps this is one reason she was a good choice for this film. Fanny Brice and Streisand shared the same ethnic and social backgrounds, insecurities, and yet were both incredibly talented women.  This scene, however, is stilted and depends on Streisand’s vocal chops, which are formidable.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.    How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? It’s an introspective song, which Fanny (Barbra Streisand) is only sharing with Nicky (Omar Sharif) and herself. If she were proclaiming to the world (as Streisand’s Fanny does in “Let’s Hear It for Me” from Funny Lady, 1975), belting and more broad and theatrical gestures would be appropriate. Here, there’s a sense of needing some space a few steps away from Nicky to consider their relationship. Adding to the private feeling is the muted brown palette of Gene Callahan’s production design. This contrasts with the couple’s worlds of vaudeville and gambling. This quiet, earthy environment gives Fanny (dressed in Irene Sharaff’s beautiful beaded brown dress) a place to reflect on her romantic dilemma through the song “People.”

 

2.    Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? This is cleverly done. The first big transition (:21) is when Fanny walks away from Nick to begin singing/thinking. They’ve been smiling in a shared medium close-up, but she leaves it to consider their relationship. The camera pans right, losing Nick and watching Fanny walk away from the camera (a non-traditional choice as a leading lady begins her song). After he follows her right, she and the camera stop at the railing for the next transition (:56), the beginning of the song proper (“People. People who need people.”). She tries looking at Nick to share the lyrics, but soon closes her eyes looking away, as if this is still too private or painful to share. This beat continues as she (and the camera) move toward the stairs. In his only reaction shot without Fanny in the frame (1:46), Nick stares directly at Fanny on her lyric, “Acting more like children than children.” They are separated for the rest of the song, relating only minimally though they are both invested in the progression of her thoughts through the lyrics.

 

3.    How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. Streisand navigates Fanny’s dilemma in the song – she is in love but unsure if it will work – by smiling gently when she’s facing him and often closing her eyes when she’s singing to herself. What’s fascinating and unique about the blocking and filming of this number is that most of the time, Fanny is walking away from Nick (and sometimes the camera) and only occasionally looking at him, even though their relationship is what she’s singing about. At the beginning, Fanny and Nick are in close proximity, but then director William Wyler separates them with a lamp pole, which suggests their dichotomy – he values his freedom while she values their relationship (and her work, which wasn’t always an ultimate concern in earlier film musicals). A couple times she turns around to include Nick in her thoughts, gesturing wide on “Maybe we’re lucky, but I don’t know” and the even more uncertain “I guess we’re both happy, but maybe we ain’t.” Wyler makes sure we catch a little of the back of Nick’s head in the lower left corner of the frame as he follows her. The camera zooms in on the “Lovers” verse, suggesting this is the most private and important part of the song for Fanny. Streisand closes her eyes and sways slightly on the lower note on the second syllable of “lovers.” At the end of this phrase, cinematographer Harry Stradling elegantly dollies right to catch Nick in the background on the left. Here, Streisand sings passionately about Fanny’s evolution “Says you were half, now you’re whole.” Stradling zooms in for her emotion on “luckiest people in the world.” The number ends with a close-up of Fanny in profile against a mostly-black part of the stairs. Streisand’s gifts are on full display in this number: technical mastery, deep emotional connection with the lyric.

funnygirl_people_FC_470x264_021920160433.jpg

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more?

If she had performed more theatrically it would have seemed like a performance. Instead the song felt real and natural. 
 

2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung?

Omar's character is more focused on Barbra's character when she begins to sing. He seems more entranced and interested in her as the song progresses. 
 

3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc.

As she begins singing, Barbra moves away from Omar. He follows her a bit, but then leans against the fence and watches. This is effective because the audience is getting the sense that Omar's character is seeing Barbra's character for the first time in her true-self state. It also focuses solely on Barbra's song. If Omar had been closer, the song would not have been as powerful (to me). It's almost as if the song needed space to reverberate. "People" is a truly beautiful number. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us