Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli)

I used to hate musicals, though I don't remember ever watching any except for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (The Wizard of Oz is a musical, too, but it's so many other things that I never thought of it as a musical.) So my opinion of an entire genre of film was based on one movie, huge cult notwithstanding, that pretty much sucks. I was under the impression that perfectly fine narrative films were being unfairly disrupted by a lot of artificial singing and dancing. When I started watching musicals about five years ago, I was surprised to find out that those "artificial" interruptions of song and dance were, in the best musicals, pure and honest emotional expressions bursting out of the truly artificial constraints of the rest of the narrative, lived experiences clawing their way out of fake emotions. The best musical numbers in The Band Wagon are great pieces of art that show up the falsities of the otherwise entertaining non-musical sequences. I don't know much about dancing, but I do know that when Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse dance in this film, the audience is seeing joy, attraction, and melancholy, not Hollywood approximations of the same. If I were stuck in a cell or on a deserted island for a number of years, but was somehow able to see Astaire and Leroy Daniels dancing in the "A Shine on your Shoes" number every day for the duration of my confinement, I could get through it.

1 comment:

Krouchdog said...

I felt the same way about musicals until I saw "Singin' in the Rain" a year or two ago. An amazing song and dance number really does have a pure, instinctual way of entertaining. It sounds very cheeseball, but you start smiling and laughing without thinking or realizing that you're doing it.

Blog Archive