The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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GoodOldNeon
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Re: Favorite movie musical sequences, and why

#576 Post by GoodOldNeon » Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:00 am

I love musicals and could do this all day, so I'll limit myself to five:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - I Will Wait For You

The scene before Guy leaves to go to war is my favourite scene from any musical; possibly my favourite scene from any film. Every time the strings swell and the main melody kicks in a chill runs down my spine and I get choked up. It's just perfect in every way.

Footlight Parade - Human Waterfall

Anything choreographed by Busby Berkeley is fantastic.

Top Hat - Isn't This a Lovely Day?

My favourite Fred and Ginger number. The moment when Ginger gets up from the chair and starts copying Fred's moves will always make me smile.

Singin' in the Rain - Make 'em Laugh

Singin' in the Rain is my favourite musical, and any number from the film would be a good choice. For pure entertainment value it's hard to beat this one.

Purple Rain - Purple Rain

Purple Rain isn't much of a film, but the climactic final performance makes up for all of its shortcomings, and then some.

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L.A.
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#577 Post by L.A. » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:23 pm

I’m not quite sure does this quite warrant to be here but there is one film that I saw at a local film theater on March 17th; my second from North Korea (the first one being the notorious Godzilla-ripoff Pulgasari (1985) about a decade ago) called Sea of Blood (1969) which is a revolutionary war opera (based on a play by Kim Il-sung), produced by (and also rumored to have been the co-director) Kim Jong-il. It is set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupied Korea and after the Koreans suffer mistreatment from the Japanese soldiers they decide to take revenge and to join the communist revolution and fight against them. If you are open-minded and don’t mind the propaganda and the running time of over four hours then give it a try. The music is probably the highlight the film, impressive arias. Unfortunately I don’t know the names of the songs but it is on YouTube albeit without subs.

The opera is the country’s longest running production, having been staged over 1500 times.

Once again if there is a more proper topic then feel free to move this, mods.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#578 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:37 am

Image

So… barring any new recommendations that cross my path, I don’t have any more unwatched musicals to see after this round of catch-ups! Wow! And boo hoo, &c

Anna (Pierre Koralnik 1967)
Jean-Claude Brialy’s photog goes on the hunt for Perfect Beauty Anna Karina, unaware that she’s under his nose the entire time thanks to Clark Kent camouflage. A musical starring Karina, Brialy, and Serge Gainsbourg, with songs written by Gainsbourg, sounds like a can’t-miss prospect, but it misses all right. The songs are awful (I suspect Gainsbourg only got Marianne Faithful to show up for her cameo by giving her the only good song of the lot) and the direction resembles b-roll footage of a William Klein failure.

8 femmes (François Ozon 2002)
80% of the French actresses Americans have heard of headline this weird murder mystery musical set in the 50s. Like the Women, there are only female speaking parts, but unlike the Women, this movie has no clear tone, and not in a fun way. I’m not sure what Ozon thinks he’s doing here, but what we get is a total mess of over the top mugging from all principals (with Emmanuelle Beart the funniest and Isabelle Huppert surprisingly the most annoying) as they try to solve which of the titular eight women killed the head of the household. Oh and then the films grinds to a halt for poorly staged music numbers, nearly all of which involve the principal performer in crude spotlight facing the camera while left to their own devices for what constitutes choreography. Embarrassing. By the time the film tries to fold in lesbianism (over and over), incest, and suicide, I was completely done with this. The costumes and set direction are great. What’s occupying them is not.

Haut bas fragile (Jacques Rivette 1995)
A coma victim recovers and uncovers, a thief steals and dances with wild abandon, and a librarian seeks a song she’s sure connects with her unknown birth mother, among other adventures. Oh, and after about an hour into this three hour movie, we occasionally get musical numbers. Here Rivette truly surprised me: of all the French directors in this write-up, he’s the least-flashy and thus the one I least expected to understand and show how movement works in a musical. But he gets it, so clearly and without it ever interrupting his other goals here. For once, invoking a classic musical as inspiration (here Give a Girl a Break and I Love Melvin) yields actual on-screen evidence of someone having seen and processed their inspiration. A folding chair, an errant sander, a gazebo, patio furniture: zero-frills props, and yet Rivette figures out how to use them and film with/within them in long takes dedicated to kinetic interactions of bodies to each other and the chosen close-quarter prop. The only bad thing about these numbers is that we only get four of them and all together they probably run less than ten minutes within a three hour film. The remainder of the movie is enjoyable in the lazy way the best of Rivette can pull off. And not one fucking actor participates in an acting workshop the entire time. How nice to be reminded again that I can like Rivette. Recommended.

Jeanne et le Garçon formidable (Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau 1998)
Promiscuous Virginie Ledoyen falls for Mathieu Demy, who’s dying of AIDS, in this grossly ill-conceived musical. Demy conceals his illness from Ledoyen until after they’ve slept together, and she is totally fine with this. At no point does anyone in the film consider this a conversation that should have been held before they slept with each other. The film plays at tackling big issues, as in its opening number with an immigrant custodial staff singing and dancing about how they’ll never be French citizens, but the film quickly follows this up with a ching-chong Asian joke, so, uh, let’s chuck those progressive bonus points out the window immediately. I hated the main character and how the film indulged her, I thought the Demy riffs (two characters are constantly missing a crucial piece of information about a shared third party, and for no reason) were lame and uninsightful, and I found the music… okay, if unimaginatively staged in performance (as seems to be the standard in these modern musicals).

On connaît la chanson (Alain Resnais 1997)
Resnais’ usual suspects gather for a romantic comedy in which characters sporadically break out into song. So, a musical, but here everyone just lip-syncs to recordings of French pop songs that last anywhere from five to thirty seconds. The gag here is that the songs are not gender-matched, and indeed the first joke of the film is a flashback to a Nazi officer singing along to Josephine Baker. As a rom com, this isn’t half bad— the characters are standard-issue, but the performers are all game. As a musical, I have some larger issues, as I could never tell what the film was going for in its gimmick. Is this a commentary on how pop songs, like quotes from movies and TV shows, stay with us and provide us guidance in our real lives? Is it an ironic distancing tool to make the conventions of the musical ordinary and unadorned by making them conversational and without dance or presentational obfuscation? The title means “We know the song,” and there is a clear “Aha” factor being played with in the often unexpected choices. One problem: I’m American and have no prior exposure to nearly all of these songs, so there is an unsurpassable obstacle for me “getting” this one on the level it operated on for French audiences on first release (it was, indeed, hugely popular and was by far Resnais’ highest grossing film) by not being able to recognize the baggage many of the song choices carry. As a weird kind of Dennis Potter-esque jukebox musical variation, it’s interesting, but I feel like it’s a movie I may never be able to meet on its referential level. But it has the rare distinction of being one of the few post-Muriel Resnais films I didn’t hate, so there’s that.

I did not realize beforehand that co-stars here Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri not only wrote this film, but also Resnais’ hideous Smoking / No Smoking two-hander (which they of course did not star in). Interesting that they parlayed their success at screenwriting these and Un air de famille into a series of films written by and starring the two and directed by Jaoui, the most famous of which being the Cesar-winning and Oscar-nommed Le Goût des autres.

Robin and His Seven Hoods (Gordon Douglas 1964)
Frequently inept filmmaking abounds in this gangster-era Robin Hood update. For instance, the entire introduction of the Robin Hood theme doesn’t even come til halfway through the movie, and out of nowhere based on a tossed-off side plot. Frank Sinatra and some of his fellow Rat Pack cronies are hoods who want to do good, and Peter Falk is their opponent, a hood who wants to do bad (and seems content to merely phone in his perf from A Pocketful of Miracles, though here as there he’s the best thing about the film). And Barbara Rush has a weird running joke concerning her seduction tactics that almost works. The musical numbers, written by Nelson Riddle, are almost uniformly awful, though Sammy Davis Jr at least gets a catchy if unconvincing ode to guns that gains a new level of cognitive dissonance when paired with Davis’ effeminate performance style.

Szép leányok, ne sírjatok! (Márta Mészáros 1970)
Jaroslava Schallerová from Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is engaged to one boy but runs off with another in this slim narrative that primarily exists so that the film can play countless tracks of Hungarian psych rock and “beat” music over the action. The film reminded me of the later No One Knows About Persian Cats in the way it blends performances into the narrative and focuses primarily on the music, not the plot. While the music is great, the film itself isn’t particularly good. My advice? Run it in the background and don’t bother trying to follow along.

That Night in Rio (Irving Cummings 1941)

Two Don Ameches, one Carmen Miranda, one Alice Faye, one (underplaying!) SZ “Cuddles” Sakall, a couple forgettable numbers, and a few silly scenes of mistaken identity make for one forgettable movie musical.

Thoroughly Modern Millie (George Roy Hill 1967)
Hard to believe a musical centered around white slavery is a failure, but if you find the idea of a cabal of Evil Asians conspiring to continually drug and kidnap Mary Tyler Moore for sale into prostitution hilarious, man, you are in luck! This Jazz Age mistake is dragged down by lousy numbers, many of which aren’t even sung diagetically (they are instead sung in voice-over, because this is one of those musicals that is embarrassed to be a musical), and a broad, unfunny central performance by Julie Andrews, who here even before SOB is subject to a barrage of lame breast jokes for no known reason.

Werewolf by Night

Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#579 Post by Werewolf by Night » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:51 pm

After Ozon's great breakthrough with See the Sea, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, and Under the Sand, 8 femmes was so surprisingly unpleasant and poorly made that I started watching his films with great reluctance. After Swimming Pool and Le temps qui reste, I just gave up altogether. I'm tempted to say Marina de Van was the real talent behind his early successes (not to mention Fassbinder and the endless charms of Ludivine Sagnier and Charlotte Rampling), but IMDb tells me she also "collaborated" on the script for 8 femmes, so maybe not? Unless her collaboration consisted of trying but failing to talk Ozon out of everything he did in that movie.

And now I'll sit by and wait for someone to reply, inevitably, "Actually, all of Ozon's films are bad."

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#580 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:58 pm

I really enjoyed Une nouvelle amie and L'amant double and didn't care for Jeune et jolie, but haven't seen any other Ozons than these and the above mentioned 8 femmes. I know if 8 femmes had been my first, it may have been my last though!

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#581 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:45 pm

Domino -- Some offbeat recs -- for next time perhaps...

Shostakovich's Cheryomushki (screen adaptation directed by Gerbert Rappaport) -- my favorite Russian musical -- A room of one's own, that's all the proletariat want for true happiness. (maybe borrows a tiny bit plot-wise from Boris Barnet's Girl With a Hatbox). One of my top musicals... ever.

Speaking of Barnet -- His Bountiful Summer -- an ode to collective farming (more charming than it sounds) has enough songs (perhaps) to qualify as a musical.

One last Russian musical -- Grigori Alexandrov's Volga, Volga -- Reputedly Stalin's favorite. Two musical troupes travel along the Volga on the way to a competition in Moscow....

From Japan -- Masahiro Makino's The Singing Lovebirds - a late 30s musical, featuring Takashi Shimura as an antiques-obsessed umbrella maker, who wants/needs to sell off his beautiful daughter to a wealthy creditor, while she is in love with an impoverished samurai (played by super-star Chiezo Kataoka -- who temporarily disappears in mid-film due illness and a short inflexible shooting schedule -- requiring a lot of last-minute improvisation -- which might explain the unusually "free" feeling of this film).

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#582 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:05 pm

I've heard of none of these, so thanks for the tips!

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knives
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#583 Post by knives » Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:12 pm

There's a ton of Indian films as well if you are okay with an average run time of three hours. I especially like of the very small number I've seen Lagaan (really any Aamir Khan film), Aar-Paar, and Iruvar. I assume some of our more knowledgeable members could give better recommendations.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#584 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:41 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:05 pm
I've heard of none of these, so thanks for the tips!
There was a subbed (somewhat restored) DVD of Cheryomushki once upon a time. I don't know of any English-subbed DVDs of any of the others. (There was a French-subbed DVD of the Barnet film, however).

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#585 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:24 pm

This is one of my favorite dance numbers. Buddy Ebson shows his dancing chops, Jimmy Stewart not so much, but overall just a joyous, fun dance number, which also includes Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers and Frances Langford.
Born to Dance (1936)- "Hey, Babe, Hey"

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#586 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:32 pm

Love this dance number from Stanley Donen's Royal Wedding.
"How Could You Believe Me..." Fred Astaire and Jane Powell

A mostly fluff musical but several great dance sequences. Of course the memorable Astaire dancing on the walls and ceiling. He was 52 at the time. Pretty impressive. I was surprised to see on Wikipedia that this MGM film is in the public domain. How'd that happen?

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