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Month: October 2019

Across the Universe (2007)

Across the Universe (2007)

  • Score: 3/5
  • Genre: 4/5
  • Did I enjoy it: Mostly.
  • Did it move me: At times.
  • Rewatch:  Probably, but not for a while.
  • Art/Pop: Actually, a nice mix
  • Noteworthy/Significant: A modern rock musical.

Director Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe is retro on several levels. It exists in a self-created world of Beatlemania music, but then looks even further back, to traditional Movie Musicals, and re-imagines them through a post-MTV kaleidoscope, echoing the directorial focus on color, composition, and choreography within the context of a charming romantic caper that powered many a Saturday evening date night for past generations.

Jim Sturgess plays Jude (all the character names come from Beatles songs), a young working class Brit (from Liverpool, of course), who decides to jump the pond to America to track down his father, an American WWII GI who abandoned Jude’s pregnant mother in England when he returned stateside. While pursuing this quest – a quest resolved very quickly in first few minutes of the film – he meets and befriends young college student Max, played by Joe Anderson, and begins a relationship with Max’s sister Lucy, played by Evan Rachel Wood. The film follows them from adventure to adventure across the major events of the late 1960s and the anti-war counter culture.

There is precious little dialog, and the movie is essentially a very, very long string of musical set pieces. The actors all sing versions of the Beatles songs, together with special cameo guest stars including Bono and Joe Cocker, and are usually accompanied by music video-meets-traditional-musical montages of dances, psychedelic effects, etc. Many are pleasing and artistically interesting.

However, and I cannot believe I am saying this, even a band as universally loved as the Beatles can get tiring after a while, and as the movie moves on there is an increasing feeling of scenes being set up so that a song they want to use makes some sense. As a result, I wavered on the above average genre score, but this is an ambitious undertaking and there are enough interesting set pieces and scenes to warrant it. At many times, Across the Universe is a very beautiful film to watch — just not all the time.

Review Date: 06/29/2019

Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face (1957)

  • Score: 3/5
  • Genre: 3/5
  • Did I enjoy it: Mostly.
  • Did it move me: A little.
  • Rewatch: Once is enough, but could.
  • Art/Pop: Mostly Pop
  • Noteworthy/Significant: Nothing I am aware of or saw.

Funny Face is a perfectly serviceable Musical / Romantic comedy of the old school. A very obviously aging Fred Astaire and a young Audrey Hepburn make a bit of an odd couple even from the early scenes (she was actually in her late 20s, but looks much younger in the film). However, they are both professionals who get on with it well enough. Kay Thompson does a great job as the diva magazine editor, decades before The Devil Wears Prada and its ilk.

The thing that gets me with films of this era is the level of thought and detail that goes into shot composition, color scheme of walls, costumes, props, and movement. It is sometimes in little things: walking through Paris, Fred & Audrey stop by a wall to talk and there is a large red and white poster which subtly echoes the white with red-accent-under-the-collar coat that Fred is wearing. It is just a small, easily missed detail, but I’m sure someone planned it, and I appreciated it. There are many scenes of talking where the composition of the bodies and the faces against a background follows traditional principles and is soothing and pleasing. There is a place in the world for the modern ADHD driven obsession with having “authentic” settings, and  perspective and camera changes every 17.2 milliseconds, but watching films like this makes you remember that once filmmakers saw films also as a series of exquisite paintings. Don’t get me wrong, the work in Funny Face is not quite that good, but the thought is there, all right.

The music is fine but not outstanding; the limited use of Gershwin music just seems patched on and somewhat out of place, as if they ran out of material and needed something recognizable for marketing purposes. The dancing is good but not great, with the possible exception of a scene in a dark Jazz bar where Hepburn does a fun routine. I also like the proto-Emo look of many people here and at the later scene in the philosopher’s house. Paris is beautiful, what little we see of it, and there are lots of great nostalgia moments with TWA prop airplanes and funny French cars.

If you are looking for a film to introduce a modern or more casual movie watcher to this genre, Funny Face would not be my top pick (Singing in the Rain probably would), but it is at worse inoffensive, and the small handful of quality moments between Audrey & Fred, and the energized nod-and-a-wink performance of Kay Thompson (who was the standout here) make it worth a viewing.

Review Date: 06/28/2019