Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cole Porter's Mack the Black

from The Pirate by Vincente Minnelli

One of the great highlights of Minnelli’s best film, The Pirate, is of course the performance of Cole Porter’s wonderful song (written in tribute to one of his lovers) Mack the Black.  This is one of those perfectly formed pearls that Vincente spoke of when explaining his approach to film making.  In it (his then wife) Judy Garland plays Manuela, a girl betrothed to the much older mayor, who (unknown to her) in his younger days was the very Pirate by whom she now dreams of being abducted.  When she is placed under hypnosis by a traveling player, Serafin played by Gene Kelly, she lets loose with a song that seeks to encompass and express her vast sensual longings. This seven minute musical sequence is among the best ever recorded and constructed on film.

(It should probably come as no great surprise that this film was among Jack Smith’s favorites, and one of the inspirations for his own unfinished masterwork, No President.)

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