Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17th Log

1999, Patricia Rozema, United Kingdom
1st Viewing, DVD

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is given a lively but ultimately mediocre adaptation with this 1999 film from Canadian Patricia Rozema. Rozema stays faithful to the film in theme and subtext, yet re-imagines the essence of the lead character Fanny Price. As played by Frances O'Connor, Fanny is a much stronger and free-spirited heroine then that of what may be most common to Austen purists (certainly much more so then that of BBC’s Mansfield Park mini-series). What Rozema has done is both modernize and essentially personalize the heroine. You have to applaud the personal vision of the filmmakers adaptation, yet ultimately context of Austen’s emotional story is lost, most notably in relation to Fanny’s relationships with the other characters. The story is a beautifully rich and detailed one in the Austen tradition and (even if from a different vision) this film does a decent job of portraying its many layers (particularly heightening the examination of social class and poverty). Rozema gives the film a lively atmosphere through some cinematic techniques such as hand-held cameras and of course the montage “reflective pause” of the characters towards the end of the story, which was a good example of the re-imagining of Austen’s writing. Mansfield Park is to me a flawed film but worthy as a filmmakers personal retelling of a classic story.

1953, Vincente Minnelli, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

I absolutely adore this film!! The Band Wagon is a film that leaves me speechless with joy. Alongside Singin' In The Rain, this is my favorite American musical. Vincente Minnelli was a master of the genre and he is responsible for some of the greatest musicals in film history, but this is his greatest achievement and rates among the very best films ever made. It's cinematic joy and art. With The Band Wagon, Minnelli is contrasting or combining real-life and film (as many of the characters and situations were almost biographical reflections of real-life, including Fred Astaire's "washed-up" movie career), as well as film and ballet with theater. The Band Wagon also examines art (ie Faust) vs entertainment (ie musical comedy). Among other gifts, Minnelli excels with vivid image details and use of color within the composition. Here through his glorious vision and outstanding direction this film does not contain one frame that doesn't work in capturing humor, beauty, intelligence, and excitement. Not go without mentioning is the performances of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse… WOW. Probably the two greatest dancers in film history (and two of my favorite actors), and together they light up the screen. Charisse is particularly radiant with her stunning beauty, grace, and of course legs! There is some remarkable dialogue, moments and musical numbers (most notably the grand "A Shine on Your Shoes", the charmingly funny "Triplets", and especially the breathtakingly sexy and dazzling closing noir-esque jazz sequence "Girl Hunt Ballet"). The Band Wagon just works in all aspects of filmmaking. Through a collaboration of talents (Minnelli's direction, Astaire and Charisse's performances, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's screenplay, Michael Kidd's choreography, and Arthur Schwartz music) The Band Wagon becomes a collective masterpiece. It's a musical comedy that is a joy to watch, but perhaps the greatest asset is the richness and depth within the images, sounds and emotions of the film. Repeat viewings are even more enjoyable and give the film a timelessness. The Band Wagon is simply an amazing film. Pure magic and absolutely unforgettable!! Not only one of the greatest comedies or musicals, but one of the very greatest films ever made. "That's Entertainment!"


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