11 December 2020.
I had to leave out many fine examples (7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS, GIGI, SWEENEY TODD, MOULIN ROUGE, MARY POPPINS, PURPLE RAIN, LA LA LAND…), but here are the absolute jewels. We need such uplifting talent and joy in these grey, uncertain times…
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)
Gene Kelly was at the height of his art, his dancing akin to ballet, in this romantic fairytale of a struggling American artist in Paris who is involved with a rich, older woman, but falls for a sweet French ingenue (Leslie Caron).
It swept the Oscars that year. Based on George Gershwin’s music and directed by Vincente Minnelli, it is an ode to the great American songbook, youthful love, dreams of Paris and grand dance numbers.
SINGING IN THE RAIN (1952)
A film to see again and again, rejoicing in its verve, innocence and amusing take on Hollywood intrigues when silent films were moving into sound in the late 1920s.
Directed by the duo of Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, and starring Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, it is a perfect mix of incredible dance numbers, humor and a love triangle. An absolute, exuberant gem.
WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
How can you miss with the music of Leonard Bernstein, the choreography of Jerome Robbins and a story based on Romeo and Juliet?
Two gangs battling it out in the streets of New York, in dance rather than with brawn, with Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.
It won an incredible 10 Oscars, but despite its reputation it now feels dated and too sentimental. The great news is that Stephen Spielberg has come out with a modern version of it – looking forward to that in 2021!
MY FAIR LADY (1964)
Here is the multi-award-winning musical in which every song is perfect and unforgettable. Based on George Bernard Shaw‘s “Pygmalion”, about a Cockney flower girl transformed into a lady by a strict professor of phonetics, brilliantly embodied by the inimitable Rex Harrison, it of course features the sublime Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle.
Remember Lerner and Loewe’s “Why Can’t a Woman be More like a Man?”, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face” or “On the Street where She Lives”…? Simply enchanting.
CHORUS LINE (1985)
To me this film, adapted from its original stage play of 1975, was the turning point when old, venerable musicals became hip and modern.
A row of eager hopefuls are trying out for a role in a Broadway show, each performer pouring out his/her talent, heart and guts to get a part. Riveting, bawdy, energetic and so New York! Michael Douglas plays the demanding director.
ON CONNAIT LA CHANSON (Same Old Song) (1997)
The French can do it too – sometimes. (No, I’m not a fan of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”). This one by revered director Alain Resnais was an innovative delight, bringing song seamlessly into a tale of different characters weaving in and out of each other’s Parisian lives, both professionally and romantically.
Very tongue-in-cheek, with the cream-of-the-crop of French actors: Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azema, André Dussollier, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agnès Jaoui…
Bob Fosse created the newest, coolest choreography ever – and this gangster-ridden, ambitious torch song of a musical puts his sharp steps into brilliant effect.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere dazzle!
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.