I never quite did – and now I never will – equate the experience of watching a movie on a television screen with that of a movie theatre. Such was the case when I ventured into the Devonshire Mall Cineplex theatre the other night, on a whim, to catch 1957’s Funny Face (Stanley Donen) starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Yes, I’d seen this movie two or three times over the years but only on DVD or video. Wow, what a difference watching on the big screen with sets and costumes just brimming with colour and exuberance! The movie also is about the fashion industry and takeoff on famed Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland. Think The Devil Wears Prada (David Frankel 2006) but with song and dance by some of the greatest actors ever to grace the silver screen (no offence Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway). Funny Face seems the epitome of the Fifties musical. It has it all. Donen – dubbed “the king of the Hollywood musical,” also directed Singin’ in the Rain. George and Ira Gershwin wrote the songs. Moreover, one of America’s greatest still photographers, Richard Avedon, supplied the sets’ fashion photos. This movie has it all, from Astaire and Hepburn’s singing and dancing to some of the greatest songs ever recorded (“How Long Has This Been Going On” or “S Wonderful”). The movie confirms Astaire’s amazing talent as actor, singer and dancer. And Hepburn wasn’t bad in all three roles either. How many actors these days are that versatile? Maybe I’m reading too much into it but beyond the 1950s candy floss the film had a few things to say about the world of fashion versus bohemianism where one, seemingly crass and the other deep, can both be just as artificial. It’s also a great movie about Paris, playing on every Parisian stereotype - and why not? (That’s when the French loved America.)…..Cineplex Odeon has more films over the next month in its classic series, such as The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille 1956), on Easter weekend, and The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming 1939). Take the kids to see The (original) Wizard in mid-April. If any movie should be seen on the silver screen it’s Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. A bonus: tickets are just $6 adults.
They promised, but I never did manage to get an interview with one of the directors of Burn (post below), the well-made documentary by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez about a beleaguered fire company on Detroit’s east side. But it’s worth a night out to catch this flick in limited engagement March 22 – 28 at Silver City in Windsor. The “embedded” filmmakers with Engine Company 50 spend days and nights with the crew as they eat, sleep and are called to numerous fires – 95 per cent of which are arsons – in one of the Motor City’s most benighted areas. Yet these firefighters exhibit grit, brotherhood and a caring for the citizens in their neighborhoods. Says one: “I’m a product of Detroit, I’m not one of those persons who’s not going to turn my back on Detroit.” The movie also has a terrific rock and roll soundtrack. It’s no dull documentary.
And one final thing. Last night I caught the late great Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku’s final film (he died in 2003), Battle Royale (2003). You know the story Lord of the Flies? Well, this is Lord of the Flies on steroids. This class of high school students won the wrong lottery when they were chosen for a diabolical game on a remote island.