Thursday, March 16, 2006

Favourite Movies # 29 The Band Wagon

I realize how increasingly dull it will become if I just blah blah about my favourite movies. I mean, a critical edge is needed and I feel so gushy about so many movies it’s hard to be critical. I am going to also start commenting on old movies I don’t like- should be a novelty. That being said, today I want to talk about The Band Wagon (1953). Pretty much perfect, that’s the way I’d describe this Technicolor pastiche about the exhilaration, electricity and ego involved in mounting a Broadway show. I tried to be critical but I just can’t; here’s a movie that reaffirms why I love movies so much.
It’s fresh still and very sophisticated in its simplicity- this point is all the more valid when compared with other MGM musicals of the time. Placed alongside Brigadoon, a popular but thoroughly pedestrian film with the same director, female lead, producer, etc, The Band Wagon endured more successfully in 2006.
The uncomplicated plot centres on washed up movie dancer Fred Astaire attempting to recapture popularity in a new show, guided by the completely wrong director. Vincente Minnelli was certainly the completely right director for this movie. As with most of his films, his urbane sense of style is in the forefront. The musical numbers, while not integrated into the plot per se, are a throwback to an earlier form of the Hollywood musical when songs were used in a performance setting. Minnelli often utilized song to express emotion (“The Boy Next Door” from Meet Me in St. Louis) or develop plot and characterization (“Our Love is Here to Stay” from An American in Paris) but here the focus performance for performance sake. The result is not as organic as the folk musicals of the era that glorified the American Way, but more of a deliberate spectacle, exalting the art of masquerade and make believe. This film does for musical theatre what All About Eve does for dramatic: makes the viewer want to be a part of that worldCriticism: I hate Oscar Levant. He was an alcoholic pianist/wit who for some reasons appears in quite a few MGM musicals of the 1948-1953 period. He was apparently a horror to work with and adds nothing to film. That’s all the bad I can say about this movie. So get aboard the Band Wagon for sheer enjoyment (cheese dog, but I couldn’t resist).