The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
Fashion mavens, rejoice! Before her likeness was used in a recent
television commercial, Audrey Hepburn danced in a Paris nightclub in Stanley
Donen's 1957 classic, "Funny Face." The film is now available as part of
Paramount's "Centennial Collection" DVD series.
"Funny Face" is a film that brings you back to a golden age of the Hollywood
musical. I've never been a fan of musicals, with people suddenly breaking
out in song. But when I see a good one, I enjoy it as much as any well made
film. Very much in tune with Donen's own "Singin' In The Rain" (1952), this
film is alive with dancing, exquisite cinematography, believable acting and
songs from George & Ira Gershwin.
The film, seen with 21st Century eyes, is remarkably fresh. Young girls and
women, who are into fashion magazines and so-called "fashionistas," will
undoubtedly enjoy the chaos that takes place at the fictional "Quality
Magazine." Television shows like "Ugly Betty" and "What Not To Wear"
probably have borrowed some cues from this 1957 classic. Kay Thompson is the
head of Quality and can dictate what's going to be in fashion. In the
opening number, she says that pink is in. What follows is a Technicolor
treat of a song number. Fred Astaire, who is Quality's top photographer (and
no, he doesn't use a digital camera), and Thompson later come across Audrey
Hepburn in a bookstore in Greenwich Village. Astaire, ever so subtly, falls
for the plain pixie. He later convinces Thompson that Hepburn is Quality's
next and hottest model. Eat your heart out, Tyra! The trio is off to Paris
for their adventures in modeling.
Whereas 21st Century musicals have been overblown and hollow, like
"Dreamgirls" and "Chicago," "Funny Face" is charming. Is it typical of
Hollywood's musicals of the era? Yes. But almost everything about it is
expertly handled. The song numbers aren't the most memorable, yet they are
perfectly suited to the story. The one exception is "S'Wonderful," which is
familiar to me because I have a Diana Krall CD where she sings it
wonderfully. Donen's direction is solid and assured, while Ray June's
cinematography is rich and colorful. One of my favorite sections in the film
is the opening title sequence which features Richard Avedon's backgrounds.
Over the years, Audrey Hepburn has become one of those movie stars whose
very image can be instantly identified. She's become a symbol of simple
beauty and elegance. Many these days, I'm sure, see Hepburn or Marilyn
Monroe or James Dean and see the face, the icon, rather than the actor.
"Breakfast At Tiffany's" (1961) could technically be considered the film
that made her an icon, though she had been in classic films before that.
Hepburn was indeed a beauty, but she was also a very good actress. She
didn't have a sultry voice, nor was she a great singer, yet she was
believable and charming. Her acting range could seem limited. She played the
simple and plain girl who blossomed into a beauty a few times in film, most
notably "Sabrina" (1954), and "My Fair Lady" (1964). Watch her in Donen's
mature and often sad "Two For The Road" (1967) and "Robin and Marian"
(1976), you'll see an immensely talented actress.
Fred Astaire, of course, shines in this film. I can't (or won't unless I
really have to) dance worth a lick, but I admire Astaire's talent. Like Gene
Kelly, he could light up the screen with his fluid moves. He and Thompson
have an excellent and oh-so-cool number towards the end of the film.
"Funny Face" is one of those old movies that's perfect for a rainy day. Pop
some popcorn, chill some drinks and snuggle up with your sweatheart. This
film is s'wonderful.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All
DVD Quick Glimpse
Colorful and very romantic musical from
director Stanley Donen
Director: Stanley Donen
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
Special features include featurettes, photo
gallery and theatrical trailer
Picture: Very Good
Some footage of Audrey Hepburn's dancing in
"Funny Face" was used in a recent TV commercial
The color of this movie will make your eyes pop
out... in a good way
Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD RELEASE DATE
January 13, 2009