Monday, January 22, 2007

January 22nd Log

1934, Ray Enright / Busby Berkeley, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Dames is a flawed and plot-wise is a silly film, yet it leaves a remarkable impact simply because of the Busby Berkeley Musical numbers that highlight the final act of the film. As such Dames starts off slow, but finishes with a bang. A Dazzling bang of three musical set pieces directed and choreographed from the surreal mind of Berkeley, and his visionary kaleidoscope imagery ("The Girl at the Ironing Board", “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and “Dames”). Obviously “Dames” is a quintessential Berkley number in style and theme, yet the most impressive moment of the film is “I Only Have Eyes For You”, a dreamlike sequence where all the images transform into that of Ruby Keeler. This is one of the most remarkable and definitive sequences Berkeley ever made and it elevates this film to magical heights. The Berkeley musical sequences really strengthen the quality of the film, but there is also some charm from the little bits of silly humor (the hiccup “medicine”; the sleeping bodyguard with a gun; etc), and of course the chemistry amongst the cast. Many of these actors have collaborated before (in most cases on other Berkeley musicals) and the connection shows up on screen. Of course Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell make a great romantic team, as this is on of seven films they made together. Really this is a very minor film among the classic Berkeley musicals, but the “I Only Have Eyes For You” sequence is a special one indeed.

2005, Gurinder Chadha, United Kingdom / United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Bride and Prejudice is a film that has alot of potential to be a great comedy. However, much of the potential is diminished by director Gurinder Chadha's focus on the stereotypes of characterization and cheap laughs. The film is (as the title suggests) a take off Jane Austin's beloved novel Pride & Prejudice, which deals with themes of marriage and class. That general concepts works as a good balance with this film, which deals with marriage and class themes of the Indian culture in contemporary UK. At times the film shines, mostly because of the very presence of Aishwarya Rai. Rai is easily among the most beautiful actresses to grace the screen, and while she is well known and loved in Indian cinema, she has the potential for superstardom in America. Bride & Prejudice is another attempt (like Chadha's superior Bend it Like Beckham) at blending western audiences with “Bollywood” films and here they present a very western take on a Bollywood film (with extravagant musical custom and set pieces, yet in English dialogue and a much shorter length of under 2 hours). There is some fun here and plenty of energy, but much of it feels forced and the male lead is extremely dull and uninteresting. Bollywood purists probably won't like this a bit, but it is recommended for those unfamiliar or looking to get a slight idea of what they are like. It's also recommended for fans of Rai, who may not be at her very best here (go see Taal or Devdas), but she is certainly glamorous and stunning once again.


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