18 May 2013


Locus Focus: Take Ninety-Three!

Yes, we're still doing movie musicals--my affirmative answer to my own question of May I Have Some Music?

I remember reading somewhere that most directors think of the music last, if only in the sense that they give it the smallest slice of the budget. Putting the music first, so that everything else is built on it, is much tougher: a director of a musical would benefit from an experienced crew who know their stuff. This is probably why the best musicals come out of the same studios all the time, like M-G-M and Disney. Today's featured film is an exception, although it's cute to note (with Wikipedia) that it is "jokingly regarded as the first (and only) M-G-M musical made at Paramount Studios."

Funny Face

"I want to step out down the Champs Elysee/ From the Arch of Triumph to the Petit Palais/ That's for me/ Bonjour, Paris!"

Now this is artistry: transmuting one's love of a place into a melody as charming and catchy as what we hear in Bonjour Paris!

I don't know how anyone could listen to this showstopper and not want to travel to Paris at once--and upon getting there, start ticking off all the locations listed in the lyrics. Not mechanically, of course, but with a sense of joyful discovery. Like our characters.

The best part is that Bonjour Paris is just an "overture" to what comes next: a series of fashion shoots in various locations around the capital. It may or may not dawn on the viewer that while the characters of Funny Face are turning Paris into a backdrop for their magazine spread (not to mention their musical numbers), everything in the foreground was deliberately manipulated so that no other city in the world would do for the setting.

The very premise of finding a new kind of model--one who is as intellectual as she is beautiful--is the perfect excuse to film something in a city that is as famous for its philosophy as it is for its fashion. Even the expected romantic subplot is less about falling in love in Paris than it is about falling in love with Paris. Yet this appreciation--in music and in direction--is not French, but "strictly tourist" and unmistakably American.

In general, isn't it true that we are often surprised by what foreigners end up loving (or hating) about the city we call home? I'd love to watch Funny Face with a lifelong Parisian someday, just for his reaction to Bonjour Paris.

Question of the Week: What do visitors to your city usually go crazy over? (And do they ever sing about it???)


Sheila said...

Finally a movie I've actually watched! I loved the scene where she's running down the stairs, trailing a big shawl, crying "Take a picture! Take a picture!"

But then I love Audrey Hepburn in anything.

Visitors to my city usually call it "Mudville." At least the college students do. But the river and the mountains are very beautiful, and there's an old boarding school on a hill that is absolutely picturesque. I'd love to do a photo shoot there in the fall.

Angie Tusa said...

There have been so many songs about New Orleans that I can't possible name them all. :)

A large part of that, I'm sure, is that people are drawn here partially because of the music to be found here. The food is probably a close second.

DMS said...

You are right! It would be amazing to watch Funny Face with someone from Paris. Seeing and hearing their reactions would be priceless. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- The first time I saw this movie, I was a child, and the only scene I remembered from that first viewing was exactly that one! =D It's definitely a wonderful cinematic moment--and probably the only scene in which Hepburn's costume eclipsed the Parisian backdrop!

The old boarding school in your city sounds great. When I was younger, I really wished I could have gone to one. If I do NaNoWriMo this year, it will likely be a story set in a boarding school. =)

Angie -- Don't forget the one McFly did! ;-)

I recently watched another movie set in New Orleans, and the director didn't seem very sensitive to music, he still let the leads hang out for a bit in a jazz club. =) I'm not sure how the performers would rate, though, because I'm not into jazz much myself.

DMS -- Exactly! =D

Sheila said...

E, if you do that, do the world a favor and don't make it sound like one endless slumber party! I think all high-school girls imagine that's what boarding schools are like.

Our local one is a *military* boarding school, which is an odd American tradition where we take unwilling boys and girls -- often those who have been troublemakers -- and treat them like military cadets. It goes about as well as you would expect. We drive by on Sundays and see the cadets drilling on the green. It makes me want to come by with cupcakes and hugs; some of them are pretty little.

But man, the buildings are gorgeous. And the giant trees around the school. One of these days I want to climb up that massive hill at sunset and see what the view is like from there.