Friday, 22 April 2011

*Funny Face

Spring cannot flounce skirts and breeze more blithely than with Paramount's conspicuously vernal musical picture, "Funny Face," which teams Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in a delightfully balmy romance. Indeed, it is reasonable to reckon that you won't see a prettier musical film, for this is a movie with class in every considerable department.

Let's begin with the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, such the likes of “I Love Your Funny Face”, “’S Wonderful” -which are from their musical comedy of the same title, produced years ago. Yet they have more lilt and frolic in them than if they had been written last year.

It is a purely coincidental tale of a drab little Greenwich Village salesgirl who is grabbed by a pertinacious troupe of style-magazine super-worldlings, whisked off to Paris and turned into a dazzling supermodel, with whom the blasé photographer falls in love. But she can't stay out of those smoky cellars where the long-haired intellectuals hive—not until one bearded cultist shows he's interested in more than her mind.

For all the simplicity of that fable, Leonard Gershe, who prepared the script, has made it spin by being lightly satiric of all the la-de-da of the dress trade, while taking a few good-natured tumbles out of the breast-beating Existentialists. And Roger Edens, the talented producer, and Stanley Donen, the director, have turned the whole thing into a lovely phantasm made up of romance, tourism and chic.

The eye is intoxicated with exquisite color designs and graphic production numbers that are rich in sensory thrills. There's one done by the principals in a dark-room, with the faint cherry-red glow of a ruby-light keying the shadowy movement that goes with the singing of the title song. And there's another tenebrous number done in a Paris dive, with red and green lights blotching the darkness, that has a terrific mood.

Finally we come to the acting (and singing and dancing), which are elegant, too. Audrey Hepburn has the meek charm of a wallflower turned into a rueful butterfly, and Fred Astaire plays her lens-hound suitor softly. Kay Thompson, the brittle cafe singer, is fantastic and fun as a style-magazine director, and Robert Flemyng and Michel Auclair are good as a couple of Paris characters in the only other roles that amount to anything.

A lot of fine outdoor shots were made in Paris—in the springtime and in the rain. If you try hard, you can smell horse-chestnut blossoms. That is the sort of film this is!

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