Monday, October 13, 2014

On a Clear Day you can see Forever

by Vincente Minnelli, Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane

This late film by Minnelli is generally dismissed as some kind of failure, even now as it was when it first appeared, which strikes me as a bit of a shame.  The images were framed by two Hollywood masters: Vincente Minnelli and, his director of photography, Harry Stradling (who also shot Minnelli's greatest film, The Pirate.)   

The images above come from the beginning of it, up to the brilliant parody of Carol Reed’s shabby Oscar-winning film of Oliver! (a mediocrity relieved only by the presence of the director’s burly and charismatic nephew, Oliver Reed, as Bill Sikes.)  In Minnelli’s great Orphanage sequence in On a Clear Day, the filmmakers designed sets and costumes scaled so as to make giants appear “normal” and Barbra appear to be a ten year old.  (Perhaps De Palma was paying homage to this, as well as Hitchcock’s Marnie, in his very clever Kidnapping sequence near the end of Obsession with Geneviève Bujold.)  Streisand was never in better voice or had a better batch of songs to sing or routines to put over.  She shows all of her theatrical skills in this wonderfully soundstage bound musical.  Maybe not as great as The Pirate or The Band Wagon, but better than just about anything of its kind and time up until Altman’s Popeye.  Above all, the film has some very interesting things to say about its times and time and what it means to be a nobody.

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