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About Soprano12

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  1. I would like to add one more aspect to the definition of musical: its lasting emotional power. When we watch a musical, the melodies touch our innermost soul, creating empathy for the character. The lyrics articulate the love/hate, frustration/victory, sadness/glee so that we identify with him or her. The character's feelings become our own. Many songs are lyrical or repetitive enough so that at the very least, we walk out of the theater humming a few tunes. At least one of the songs becomes an earworm that plays in our heads for a while. Maybe we learn it. If the song has enough emotional depth, we recall it when we are in a similar situation and it heartens us. Whenever we watch a musical, we sing along with the characters. Wouldn't it be fun to have a sing-along showing of TCM films in theaters? Bollywood capitalizes on the commercial aspects of its musicals. We should, too.
  2. We have been challenged to define the term "musical.' I would like to begin with what it is not. The definition of a musical cannot include "any film in which music is used. All films use a musical theme in the introduction and credits and a musical score in the background throughout to enhance the drama. The music is integral and serves the film but is not the focus. Similarly, neither does a film that includes popular songs from the setting's times. There, the music sets a mood and gives authenticity to setting. It is part of the setting in the same manner as costumes and props. Again, it is integral and serves the effort to tell the story but is not the focus. We live in a world full of sound. Music is endemic, part of our everyday existence. However, our lives are not musicals.
  3. 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.
  4. Leonard Bernstein's Daughter Jamie published a Biography about growing up in the Bernstein family, Famous Father Girl. I have only read three chapters but the second chapter was so vivid because of this class. She mentions his compositions, West Side Story and a host of details and insights that will be interesting to all who are fascinated by this man and his works. The timing marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. For anyone interested in Rodgers and Hammerstein, a new book, Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution, covers their lives and partnership. Again, I only read the first four chapters but the insights it gives regarding their lives and the obstacles they faced both in Hollywood and on Broadway touching on the world we entered through this class. They were not over-night successes and had other collaborators before they melded their skills together. I recommend both of these books.
  5. The very nature of MFL lies in its story and the word “but.” Originally based on a myth where an artist falls so in love with the stone sculpture of a woman he has created that she comes to life, George Bernard Shaw modernizes the narrative to the situation we see here. Since the raw material is not rock but a human being, the creation and the artist fuse together like a Zen meditation for Eliza to make the transformative breakthrough. Throughout, Henry Higgins, the artist, works hard to remain at cold distance from the emotional needs of his “blank canvas” and is so disconnected from his own obsessive emotional investment that he cannot help but egotistically take all credit. There is the juxtaposition between what is imagined/desired and what is real/human. This ironic concept of imagination vs reality culminates in the word “but.” In many of the songs throughout the show, especially “Hymn to Him”, the idyllic (here, what an independent person’s life is like) is interrupted with the “but”, the reality although cynically presented. Similarly, in other numbers, Eliza does it with “Just you wait”, her father does it in “Get me to the Church on Time” but they view themselves as victims of others and fate. Henry is the creator, the controller, rather than the controlled. His perspective is different. Now, after the encounter at his mother’s house when Eliza demands that he consider her efforts and her needs, he has begun to realize that their relationship has gone beyond teacher/student, creator/creation. “But” has been obliterated. With these underpinning concepts, Cukor says “Roll camera.” Emerging from the shadows (her delusion that Henry might change) Eliza turns off the light, symbolizing the end of her hopes for his enlightenment. The lighting creates a somber, dark background where the books and materials used for teaching blur while Eliza is in sharp focus. The sad, soft orchestral music enhances her despair. The music motif changes to “a few more hours” as she pounds the armrest. Her father had a few more hours of freedom before his life changed with marriage. Eliza has a few more hours until an uncertain future. What is to become of her? She has lost her identity as a poor girl in the streets and is in a netherworld of a rigid society. But it is her battered ego that has taken the biggest hit. A victim of Stockholm syndrome, she had fallen in love with her creator but now realizes her folly. Though free, she is still trapped. She pounds the armrest when she realizes that she has been beating her head against the wall. When Henry enters the room, she will not allow him to see her vulnerability. From this crouching position, she will not allow him dominance. So, she hurls the slippers as she rises, hurling a curse on him. His power over her is broken. Henry is confused and she explains in terms he understands, her role in his competitive game. She is no longer willing to be a mere pawn. The camera angle changes from distant shot to closeups as they verbally spar. After being thrown onto the couch, Eliza is again in a subservient, low position while Henry is standing behind the couch, in the dominant position because she demands to know her fate. She rises again, shaking her head at his denseness in understanding her real needs. Henry rationalizes it as imagination and suggests that she go to bed to sleep it off as if the nightmare will be over when she awakens. But the genie cannot not go back in the bottle. “But” has merged with reality and Cukor’s masterful direction propels the plot toward resolution.
  6. 1. Art (in all forms) always pushes the social envelope much earlier than other aspects of culture. In the 17th century, Shakespeare used cross-dressing effectively in his plays so the roots have been deep in theater productions for centuries. Shakespeare’s actors were all male but the concept of women dressing as men to gain entry into levels of power allowed for double entendres and mistaken identities. However, it was always to get the laugh, and in the end, characters paired off boy-girl. In 1895, in England, writer Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for gross indecency. There were many such cases. There is something about film musicals that makes them an easier vehicle for change. Gestures, dance movements, lyrics, spoken dialogue or music itself is nuanced and can be more subversive or downright confrontational. In the past decades, lead male performers were unambiguous in their sexual orientation. Taking their lead from American icons like John Wayne and the country’s dominance on the world stage, lead roles portrayed American men as we saw ourselves-rugged individualists, successful businessmen, capable leaders. Musicals through the 50’s likewise adopted these attitudes. Although Astaire and Kelly incorporated ballet and tap, it was decidedly dominant, aggressive, athletic even though these two performers were often on the ends of sliding scales of each of those characteristics. Astaire was cooperative, Kelly alpha; Astaire was scheming, Kelly arrogant; Astaire was elegant, Kelly muscular. Whether dancing with a partner or solo, both men overtly masculine. Singers like Gordon McCrae and Howard Keel exemplified the male image with their good looks and masculine bodies. By the 1960’s, the film audience was beginning to expand its concept of male mannerisms although it would be decades before the LGBT community was accepted. Although great strides have been made, homophobia is still an issue today. As part of the rebellious nature of the 60’s, at least the younger audiences were open to characterizations that were androgynous or leaned toward realistic portrayals of men but it was still under the veil of the conceit set in more covert locations like the Kit Kat club in Cabaret or in stylized portrayals like Preston’s in Victor/Victoria. It is still subversive. The latter is made palatable to the audience because Victoria is a female disguised as a male while Preston’s character is a subversive male. By the 1960’s, the gay community had struggled against social stigmas that they were sinful, wicked, mentally deficient, willfully mis-oriented long enough and starting to push back. Audiences were scandalized by Elvis Presley's overtly sexual gestures. The clip with Ann Margret has her mimicking his movements and is often shot behind and below her to tantalize the audience further. Pre-code era clothing, lyrics and movements seem archaic and Victorian compared to the 60's. Rock and Roll unleashed a genie that would not go back in the bottle. 2. First, Meredith Wilson sets up this performance earlier in the “Rock Island” train scene with the glorious syncopated patter of the passengers. The audience knows it is in for a special linguistic, rhythmic ride with Preston as the virtuoso engineer. Preston’s performance is The Music Man reminds me of Gene Kelly. By the time we get into “Trouble in River City,” even before he begins the song, Preston’s gestures are precisely and elegantly choreographed to coordinate with the captivating rhythm of the spoken phrases. His entire body moves on slightly bent knees with a dancer’s grace as he leads into the number. He grabs bystanders by the arm as well as by his rapid-fire sales pitch. Soon, even before his audience starts to sing, he has them in the palm of his hand. His hands pantomime the sordid scenarios he uses to pray on the fears of the naïve townspeople. He modulates his voice and elongates words to entice and give emphasis. Preston does not sing so much as he is an early rapper, speaking in rhythm so hypnotic that everyone falls under his spell. While his hands distract, there are moments when his hips move in a more seductive manner for just a second to symbolize the seductiveness of a scammer. Of course, he uses the entire stage, moving up the steps and around the audience and points to individuals as a technique to connect with each potential customer, breaking the audience down into “sales” pieces yet putting it back together again. At on point, the camera is above him to show his command over the spellbound audience who is now moving and singing in his cadence and acts as Greek chorus to his Oedipus. He has all the qualities of a tent revival preacher which would be familiar to this small town. In the hands of such a manipulator, he builds to a mighty crescendo. Of course, in the end, he ascends equal to the stature of the town’s their local hero’s statue mimicking his frozen stance as the cherry on the top. This is a masterful performance. The Victor/Victoria scene begins with play with the double entendres associated with the word “gay.” If you turn the sound off, except for the handkerchief, he does not betray masculine behavior. As he comes out into the audience, he is not playing up to men but to the women as this is a mostly heterosexual audience, using the handkerchief as earlier performers would have used a cane, to almost touch individuals. His left hand is occasionally floppish but it is an instantaneous and does not linger. Like the Music Man, Preston glides around the room letting the word “gay” carry the import more than his body. When the song is over and he begins his patter, his left hand fiddles with the kerchief in his pocket much longer than necessary. This is a subtle signal but effective. After his insulting remarks, attention is drawn away from him, ending his performance and charade. 3. Except for watching the Music Man many times, The only other film, and only non-musical, I have seen of Preston’s is How the West was Won where he was just one of a cavalcade of stars. His character was not memorable amid the A-listers. To me, he will always be the Music Man.
  7. TCM needs to update its method of introducing films. It is surprising that a company that uses technology in so many ways still gives intros with available, basic information, especially in this setting. They should assume that the audience is knowledgeable and interested in learning more. It really dumbs down the intro and insults viewers. Back to the film, one backdrop detail that exemplifies the use of the set as part of the message. When the Jets head to the rumble, they are seen at first from the side with the words "East" and "War" on the building behind. As the camera pans left to bring them straight on, the middle word is exposed as "Warehouse." This is one detail that heightens the tension in the scene. Some of you are concerned about Wood and Moreno. To me, Tony is not presented well. He is a co-founder of the Jets. Although he has matured and begun to conform to adult society (which is shown at its most helpless, apathetic worst in this film), there should still be some lingering toughness to him. He could still be tender in the love scenes. This emasculation is part of his ineffectiveness when he interacts with Riff and the gang. His authority only comes from Riff's insistence on his participation and command for respect from the others. Yes, he reverts to his baser instincts when he kills Bernardo. Still, it seems to heavy-handed to portray him this way.
  8. 1. This scene is like all show audition backstage stories with hopefuls on stage and the overbearing manager. However, it quickly twists into an existential battle that exemplifies disruptive elements in the 60’s. Unlike earlier vaudeville or burlesque films, children rather than their parents are the ones trying out. The reality of the rigged audition is evident here with children as the pawns of the game. The struggle is between Irving who is idealistically looking for talent and the manager who thinks cuteness (Shirley-Temple-ish) is primary way to gain an audience. So, it is between potential and a future of the product vs superficial, instant gratification of a fad. This is the free enterprise conflict at its core. Do you go for the flash in the pan or the long-haul product? In the 60’s, youth rebelled against the materialism, conformity and superficiality of the American economic system. They questioned authority at every level. The Baby Boomers were more educated than their parents and usually had grown up in the suburbs in the middle class. Their concerns were no longer survival and pragmatic but philosophical. They could afford to be philosophical and feisty. Socially and politically, there was much fodder in which they can find fault. Their fathers were like The Man in the Grey-Flannel Suit, dissatisfied. Their mothers were unfulfilled June Cleavers. The Vietnam War was killing their classmates. Timothy Leary enticed them to check out. Instead, many got angry with injustice and began to protest the entire system. 2. Russell is not the usual backstage mother, silently wringing her hands in the wings. No, she is the pre-curser of the helicopter parent, aggressive and intrusive. Karl Malden as Irving is playing against his usual tough guy role here and allows her to use flattery to gain access to the stage where she takes control. She is a force of nature, a steamroller. When her direct commands to musicians and lighting are challenged, she threatens to shut down the show. It is not just her mass (clothing, the dog, the over-sized bag) but her aggressive body language and rapid-fire delivery that keeps the others from getting a word in edgewise. From the small gesture of giving the dog to Irving to circling the kids as they perform to threatening balloon girl with the point of her baton, she is in complete control. She makes a mockery of the audition and leaves the scene devastated in her wake. Irving has quit, the manager has a hat on his nose, and she is in command, victorious. Russell is indomitable. What a performance. 3. First, before the lyrics, there are other subversive elements here if we just look at body language. To begin, Baby June does a cartwheel, exposing her undies. Her upraised skirt is sideways to the audience, not facing front instead of protecting her innocence. In contrast, Louise “presents” her from behind and falters her own cues and lines throughout. Her choreography is naïve and childish especially compared to June’s high kicks and nails-on-the-blackboard voice. She is secondary to the “real” talent of Baby June. This entire scene sets up the conflicts in the story. Now to the lyrics. “Let me entertain you” is a provocative statement coming from a child. She is not doing a little darling, Shirley Temple tap dance. It is suggestive, especially with her crude, poor hoofing. The rest of the lyrics are lost under Russell’s performance.
  9. Just returned from seeing West Side Story on the big screen. I hope this film gets discussion in the remaining modules because it is the BEST film musical of all time. Bernstein's score is incredible and Sondheim's lyrics perfect. The choreography and dancing superb. The acting and singing by the two leads poignant. The integration of song and story delicately and precisely accomplished. Camera angles accentuate the dancers' positions and movements, especially when they seem to defy gravity. There are so many things I noticed this time that I missed before. However, I will address one and get out of the way for others to chime in. Every scene is shot like a work of art, perfectly framed and colorized. The lighting reminds me of film noir not just in setting but the way that shadows add dimension and tone to scenes. Props in the set cast shadows as do the people. The setting and shadows menace the kids. In the sequence when Tony leaves Maria and walks down the alley calling for Chino, the camera is above him adding to his sense of isolation. The sets are not only accurate for a city, especially New York, but they contain symbols that add to the deep meaning of the scenes. For example, windows and their tracery shadows are used to hint at churches. This is the epitome of film musicals bar none. There could be an entire course dedicated to this film.
  10. One of my favorite scenes is when Bert Lahr hams it up as the lion when they first meet him. His performance steals the scene with lots of facial expression and subtle and unsubtle moves. Thank you for posting the Mr. Rogers clip. Last weekend, I saw the documentary about him and loved it. He knew what children needed. In the case of this clip, he was helping them see the Witch as a role for an actor in a costume. It is pure Rogers. Of course, in the 1939 film, away from the clip, she is frightening. One thing we have not discussed is how background music heightens the sense of menace. In film, elements such as a motif for the character, crescendos, rhythmic pulses, dissonance or use of minor keys often signal ominous danger. I could not find a clip from Wizard with the Witch as an example as they have been removed for copyright reasons. However, background music creates a lot of the horror in scenes. Watch a horror film with the sound turned off and you will see what I mean. Sometimes we are unaware of its effects. I was until my toddler son would go running out of the room when the background music used these techniques. It wasn't until he started to take music lessons that we learned that he had perfect pitch and would react to a song if it changed from major to a minor key. Just fell off the piano bench and covered his ears and cried. The lesson here is that as adults we need to be sensitive to visual and auditory stimuli and its affect on children. Like Rogers, they need explanation and to feel safe before they can be more objective.
  11. By plan or coincidence, TCM has scheduled theater showings of this great musical on June 24th and 27th. It will be a wonderful opportunity to apply what we have learned in this course as we watch it on the big screen. In preparation, I have done some research and prepared some notes to share. Some of this comes from my experience as an English teacher or as a singer as well as childhood memories and personal opinion. Perhaps after viewing, this thread can get us talking about the experience. West Side Story (1961) 1. Origins: Like many of his plays, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was based on previously-known stories from various sources and based his play on them. Original stories came from authors Masuccio Salernitano (1410-1475), Luigi da Porta in the 1530, Matteo Bandello (1480-1562), French author Pierre Boaistuau whose story was translated in 1562. 2. Modern setting: a major character in the film are the slums of the inner city. This is not the NY, NY of On the Town. The set designs and location duplicate the reality of the city. The buildings and chain link fences become visual and physical obstacles, symbolizing their imprisonment in a social structure that is not friendly to youth. 3. It tackles in musical form social issues prevalent beginning in films in the 1950’s, most notably, James Dean’s portrayal in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Glenn Ford’s in The Blackboard Jungle (also 1955). For example, in Rebel, while his father parades around in an apron, Jim is on the couch, looking at the world upside down to personify the conflicts wrought by changes in male/female roles in the 1950’s. Glenn Ford’s teacher is confounded by his rebellious, violent students and struggles to maintain his mission as well as to preserve his life. In WSS, everything is turned up a notch by the story itself as well as the music. The main characters all suffer great teenage angst and are conflicted about their futures as they stand on the precipice of adulthood. The adults are ineffectual. In fact, in WSS, parents are never shown. The only adults are the storekeeper, teachers and policemen. Adults are supposed to help protect and guide kids. Here, kids are exposed and vulnerable. Yes, they are rebellious but they rightly question the world in which they live and innately see themselves as either puppets or victims of it or agents of change. It is a grim, realistic picture, so unlike the optimistic musicals of the past. Even when musicals tackled social issues before, they (especially Rodgers and Hammerstein) were in brighter settings and resolved with happy endings. In WSS, without the strength of blood relatives, kids seek family through gangs. They must prove themselves loyal and courageous in the somewhat twisted theme of conformity begun in the 50’s. Like Romeo and Juliet, bad things happen when anger, fanned by the need for revenge and saving face, and mob rule prevail. The adolescents are victims of society and poverty and the lack of effective adult/social intervention. It is a dark story with a small glimmer of hope. 4. An important source of conflict is immigration and racism. Zenophobia and racial profiling were as prevalent in the 50’s and 60’s as they are today. Although the Brown vs Board of Education decision integrated schools in 1954, conflict abounded as shown in the WSS school dance. White flight took people out of the cities and into the suburbs, exacerbating the problem. Although Puerto Rico had been made a US territory in 1899 and its citizens Americans. For immigrants, tension was high. Even today, we have not resolved these problems. Add in the current economic and political refugees and the pot continues to boil. 5. The dancing and music of WSS are the pinnacle of musicals. Rooted in ballet and jazz, Robbin’s choreography adapts ballet and jazz to tell the stories of the characters. Perfectly synchronized to Leonard Berstein’s challenging score, it is organically integrated into the story. Like Gene Kelly, the characters walk like dancers even before the numbers begin. Indeed, most of cast come from strong backgrounds in dance. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are smart and emotional and give the dancers backstories to use as vehicles for their performances. 6. West Side Story’s music forms the backbone of this production. By the 1950’s Leonard Bernstein was known by the musical establishment for both his composing and conducting. The general public had met him in the televised Omnibus programs from 1955-58 where he taught children and adults how to listen to classical music in his charismatic way. I fell in love with him and classical music right then although I was younger than 10. When he conducted the orchestra, every gesture and facial expression seemed to pull the music out of the instruments. In this musical, not only does the music pervade the film from start to end but it is the emotional landscape on which the story is told. It takes the audience from youthful exuberance, through menace, to tender love and tragedy. I can’t wait to read Bernstein’s daughter’s new biography about her father. I read the Steven Spielberg is attempting to mount a revival of West Side Story. We love you, Steven, but please leave this classic alone.
  12. Our class so far has taught me to watch films with more awareness. It made me stop to analyze a movie I have always enjoyed for its more salient merits. Putting together some research as well as previous knowledge gained as an English teacher, the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has many distinct qualities but its pedigree has deep cultural roots and off-shoots. a. During WWII, FDR had given many Fireside Chats in which he delineated Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. In 1943, Norman Rockwell memorialized them in a series of paintings. One, Freedom from Want, is loosely reenacted into the breakfast scene when the six men are at the table and must behave properly. The audience would catch the reference. b. Musical dance roots for the barn-raising scene i. Kelly and Donan put the ballet at the end of An American in Paris to show character development and because of its stylized nature and sophisticated music. ii. The Barn Dance is placed toward the middle of the film because its musical roots are in Aaron Copland’s popular Rodeo (1942) and involves raucous and acrobatic, gymnastic, masculine moves. Like An American in Paris, the Barn Dance is 5:47 in length, full of exuberance and conflict that presages the Sharks and Jets in West Side Story (1961). Several of the male dancers were prestigious jazz and ballet dancers. Tamblyn was a college gymnast. All of it has the energy of the Kelly ensemble pieces of An American in Paris and Singin in the Rain. (As an aside, in the 1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies in Los Angeles, Rodeo was performed on the Coliseum field complete with wagon trains. In that event, a catalogue of American music was presented in an extravaganza of national pride. It featured 85 grand pianos simultaneously playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Gene Kelly was shown in the audience.) c. The setting of this film is significant. In 1939, the western classic Stagecoach, directed by John Ford and staring John Wayne, set a pattern for the genre. Shane was released in 1953 and also dealt with taming of the West. Television was increasing in popularity. This movie was released in 1954. At that time, TV was beginning to show early westerns like the Gene Autry Show. Later, especially in the late 50’s-60’s, those popular oaters were set in places like the Oregonian town in this film. Recalling the Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald film Rose-Marie (1936) that we saw earlier in this course, the West was as wild as the Pontipee boys and needed taming. The town’s people ostracized the rascals and it took the influence of a good woman to bring order. Millie disciplined them and when she had their attention, began their etiquette education. Their moral education took more time. The proud Adam was only broken by realizing the responsibilities placed on him by fatherhood of a daughter. Suddenly, he became protective, moral, and dutiful. Again, the West was tamed by a good woman from town. d. There are many religious references in this film. The number seven represents the sons and is well-referenced throughout the Bible as well as in the Seven Deadly Sins. Their names are all Biblical characters. Millie introduces prayer to the men at meal time. A message here is that it is not enough to merely have religious names but one must behave in a ethical manner such as is taught through religion. All religions share this value. Interestingly, the TCM scheduled Guys and Dolls just before Seven Brides on June 21. That show contains even more direct religious references and is set in the inner-city wilds inhabited by hoods and gamblers. e. Freudian psychology was well-known by the 50’. A Freudian analysis of the Pontipees and Millie Is worthwhile. It would identify the younger boys (and often Adam) as driven by the Id, illogical, seeking pleasure instinctively. Millie is the Superego, the moral driver of self-control and society. Adam portrays the Ego, strategic, problem-solving mediator that is set in reality and reason. f. Geo-politically, Seven Brides highlights the threat of the Soviet Union and Communism. All of the Pontipees have red hair. Red hair-Red Scare. The avalanche is like the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. It took a thaw to allow the townsmen to reach their isolated daughters. Later, historically, it took a political “thaw” to eventually make Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” (Ronald Reagan 1987) The message in the movie is that isolationists and survivalists (assumed at the time to be Communists) were suspect. Only détente and reinstatement of American community (e.g. barn raising) would topple the suspects who would see the benefits of participation in American democracy.
  13. I hear Katherine Hepburn's voice and cadence in Grace Kelly's performance. Both women had stylized voices and stage/screen presence which are complementary in these two films. That said, the musical is much richer. Crosby and Sinatra's musical styles add a lot to the character development. If two men are vieing for the same woman, they should be equally adept in their art and these men are. The Cole Porter songs rise above the musical landscape. The melodies are more complex and the lyrics quick and clever, more than those of most of the other films we have studied for this class. Further, the charm of both singers is part of the fun. The way Louis Armstrong numbers is strung throughout the film anchors the story line as an ostinato. Of course, the happy ending does not hurt.
  14. One more point. Jerry and Adam join a long tradition of American, post-war ex-pats who lived in Paris for artistic education and to join the enclave of artists. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as well as Gertrude Stein were the most notable examples of “Lost Generation” authors of the 20’s who did this. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris taps into that milieu. Jerry and Adam represent the era after the Second World War but exemplify the hopes of individuals who consider Europe as still the best place to be recognized as an artist and in this case, freedom from conformity of the 50's. Set against this is the glorious Gershwin music which, despite his minimal training in Paris, is all-American. The subversive message here is demonstrated by Jerry and Lise’s eventual union. Whether war or peace, American and its allies create a new kind of hopeful world, especially in the face of the threat of Communism and the Soviet Union.
  15. 1. For the film to keep from falling completely into the realm of fantasy, it needs anchoring in realism. There is a delicate balance in this film. In contrast, Brigadoon begins with mist and references to lore to ensure that there is no mistake; it is fantasy. Much later, the bar scene in the city is a jarring contrast but that is deliberate as it shows that Tommy no longer belongs in reality. The inference is that love takes us out of reality, into either a nebulous world or to a place where romance and reality can co-exist. Of course, the gorgeous Lerner and Lowe music adds much to that effect. On the other hand, An American in Paris chronicles the artistic worlds of wannabes Mulligan and Cook, and their somewhat ivory tower existence in the most romantic city in the world, similar to the opera La Boheme. But this is post-war time and the Old World order has changed people. Songs like I got Rhythm and the other café and bar scenes are meant to add reality to the film to keep it grounded. Further, both main characters show a modern post-war strength that rejects that old system. When we first meet her and later at the perfume shop, Lise is very assertive with Jerry and lets him know that she considers his forwardness rude and unwelcome. On his part, Jerry is likewise skeptical of Milo’s advance and is not willing to be a kept man. Setting the ballet at the very end of the movie and carefully framing it as a flight from reality ensures that the film is as realistic as a any musical can be. Indeed, it concludes back in the world of noise, cars, and modernity where Jerry and Lise embrace. 2. First, Jerry’s costume is so informal that the audience can identify him. At the beginning, he makes a mistake with orientation of the vender's modern art and it must be corrected by the artist. This overlooks the fact that it was originally displayed on the ground upside-down by the artist himself. However, that vulnerability breaks Jerry’s smugness (projected by his carriage and brisk walk). He is warmly greeted by the emphatic artist and policeman on the sidewalk and one even gives him a quasi-embrace. When he gets to his sales corner, he greets a neighboring artist who responds in a friendly manner. In this way, Jerry appears to be part of the artistic community, speaks French as well as the locals, has embraced the French lifestyle, and is a nice person. When the American woman approaches him and tries to engage him with her horrible French, he lapses into his New Jersey persona and is rude to her. It seems cheeky but justified. He is trying to establish himself as a bona fide artist and is not willing to play games with American tourists or students. He can see through her and is more interested in real art lovers than posers. He labels her “officious and dull.” Of course, this contrasts with reality. He is not a respected, recognized and commercially successful artist yet. However, it is his treatment of the woman that attracts Milo’s attention who is not bothered by his indignation, the impetus for their relationship. In fact, she takes his attitude as a challenge since she sees that he is hungry enough to need financial help and hopes it can lead to a romantic liaison. When his response to Milo’s query about the cost of two paintings shows that he has not had any sales, he again shows vulnerability. He asks her if she “knows what she is doing,” questioning her judgement of art. When she discovers she lacks money, he is quick to ensure that the sale is not consummated on credit. With this, we see Jerry as a street-tough guy whose career ambitions are realistic. When her car pulls up, he wisecracks “maybe I should have charged you more.” After the Depression and the war, American audiences are like Jerry, struggling but cocky and unwilling to let anyone take advantage of them. The more the audience can identify with a character, the more likeable he/she is. They root for the character as they want someone to root for them.
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