Sunday 4 February 2007

Funny Face (1957) Stanley Donen

At the beginning of the film Miss Maggie Prescott, editor of Quality magazine, is bored with what she has for the current issue and so decides off the cuff that suddenly everything is boring and to fix the situation everything instead needs to be pink. Unfortunately from moment one this just reinforced my perspective on high fashion as being completely irrelevant, insubstantial and pointless. 'Think Pink', says Miss Prescott, and 'you've got to switch' say the lyrics to the song she sings. Of course, I don't buy that in the slightest, and thus I find myself all set against the entire point of the film after having seen only five minutes of it.

Soon Fred Astaire turns up to offer some substance to proceedings, as photographer Dick Avery, but all he does is conjure up the concept of invading a perfectly respectable bookstore to shoot their spread, throwing out the bookdealer Audrey Hepburn in the process. If anything else could be done to turn this film against me before it even started, this was it. OK, Hepburn's character is far too stereotypically boring an emotionless nerd to be remotely real, but she's still the only human being in a room otherwise populated by a domineering and inhuman magazine editor who should have been shot for the benefit of mankind, a photographer who should have been locked up, a supermodel with no brain who should have been kept well away and a bevy of pointless morons in pink who should have been smothered at birth. They breeze in, take over, kick out Audrey Hepburn, abuse the entire store and its contents, and then breeze back out again as if nothing had happened.

To add insult to injury the rest of the movie has the stains on the face of the globe converting the only worthwhile human being in the film into something like themselves, and having the gall to suggest that it was an improvement. They begin by trying to literally force her into it, which is horrendously offensive and a close thing in my book to rape. I remember the fuss about people complaining about the brutality in revenge for rape films like I Spit on Your Grave or Irreversible, but if anything this is more offensive because it dares to suggest that after being raped, maybe the victim should feel better for the experience, thank the unapologetic rapist and even apologise herself for even doubting how great it would be.

Cinematically the film has much in its favour, but that's not enough. Audrey Hepburn is as great as I'm learning she usually is, being as radiant as ever and easily believable as the only human character in the film. Fred Astaire can't turn his character into a pleasant person but he's good enough himself for him to be very watchable at least, which is really what an actor is supposed to do. Even Kay Thompson plays Miss Prescott well even though she's a loathsome waste of space. The songs by no lesser talents than George and Ira Gershwin are good ones, especially 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' The film looks gorgeous, courtesy of director Stanley Donen and cinematographer Ray June, who was Oscar nominated for his work. As cinematic art, it's a fine picture; as a story, message or not, it's obscene.

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