16 posts categorized "Dance"

March 24, 2022

WEST SIDE STORY

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comHere is the longest two and a half hours you will spend in your life.

Steven Spielberg's nostalgic populism goes dark.

Very dark.

Forget about, "if you can't improve on the original, don't bother."

Spielberg damns the torpedos with off-base casting choices and a celebration of stomach-churning brute violence, under a tone-deaf sense of musicality.

Shrill.

ColeSmithey.com

Every song is in the wrong key relative to the demands of the narrative.

Fingernails on a chalkboard bad.

Just awful.

ColeSmithey.com

Even its ensemble's solid choreography gets lost beneath crushing waves of poor editing, pacing, and misplaced thematic emphasis.

In our modern violent times, the last thing audiences need is the racist fueled anger, hatred, and resentment this film promulgates. 

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The definitive 1961 version of "West Side Story" retains its title.

This film only serves to underscore flaws in the source material.

Rated PG-13. 156 mins.

ZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

November 12, 2015

FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Farewell-my-concubine-movie-poster-1993-1020194509This lush epic period drama from director Kaige Chen encompasses over five decades of social and political cataclysms in China during the 20th century. The generational shifts are projected through the experiences of two young Peking Opera performers whose lives become inextricably bound together as they become stars. In the opera they play Cheng Dieyi and Duan Ziaolou, telling the beloved story of “Farewell, My Concubine,” about King of Chu’s lost battle to the Han king that leaves Chu with only the support of his loyal concubine, who sacrifices herself for her master. The proposed moral of the story is that “each person is responsible for his or her own fate.” The nature of this idea resonates across the eras through which the story jumps.

Japan’s 1930’s invasion and occupation gives way to a Communist victory a decade later. The story opens in 1977 Beijing after the Cultural Revolution, the setting that bookends the story.

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Beijing’s deadly Warlord Era (circa 1924) finds a young “Blossom House” prostitute (played by Jiang Wenli) severing her young son Douzi’s extra digit so he will be accepted into the Peking Opera as an actor-in-training. The Opera’s Master worries that boy’s extra finger “might have scared the audience.” Filmic authenticity arrives as a delay occurs before the pain and blood registers in Douzi’s young mind. Screams follow. Master Guan’s training regiment for the boys is severe. Harsh punishments include regular beatings and body-stretching tortures. Child suicide also occurs within the walls of the remote training temple.

Douzi is assigned to play a girl opposite his friend Shitou. Douzi’s fraught indoctrination, into the female role, spikes when he repeatedly misspeaks a crucial line in the play he performs for a potential backer. Douzi reverses the phrase, “I am by nature a girl, not a boy,” to read that he is, “by nature a boy.” In truth Douzi is a gay boy attempting to come to grips with his sexuality. These kinds of sub-text rich narrative details carry the audience through the dusty reality of China during each period of ideologically different but similar totalitarian regimes.

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After becoming celebrated stars of the Peking Opera, Douzi and Shitou start to go in separate directions when Shitou (now called Duan) marries Juxian, a prostitute (masterfully played by screen legend Gong Li). In response Douzi (now called Cheng) shacks up with his gay sponsor Master Uuan (Ge You). A ritual scene of the sexually incompatible opera actors putting on their make-up before a performance provides the setting for emotional fireworks to ignite. Their hazy dressing room can barely contain their “secret of success,” a dedication and loyalty designed by their Opera master to last for their lifetimes. They are connected more than either man could ever be with anyone else.

“Farewell My Concubine” utilizes traditional Chinese operas to give a musical and storytelling context for a love story between two men whose passion for their art transcends the choices they make in their personal and public lives outside of the theatre. Part history lesson, part love story, and part musical, here is a visually and thematically stunning epic from China that you will not forget.

Rated R. 171 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

September 16, 2015

THE BAND WAGON — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

The_Band_Wagon Widely considered one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, Vincent Minnelli’s “The Band Wagon” connects a jumble of comedic backstage Broadway shenanigans with mix-matched show tunes via Fred Astaire’s impeccable dance routines.

Cyd Charisse compliments Astaire’s flashy footwork with her own inimitable dance moves, some involving ballet since her character Gabrielle Gerard is a prima ballerina called upon to slum it in a kitchen-sink Broadway production based on the Faust legend. Yes, really.

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The fleet footed Astaire was 53 when he made “The Band Wagon.” He had already lived several lifetimes as a song-and-dance-man, having performed for over 30 years in Vaudeville and on Broadway in a duo dance-act with his sister Adele. For most of the ‘30s Fred Astaire became a household name through his RKO contract with Ginger Rogers that produced 10 musical pictures, including “The Gay Divorcee (1935) and “Swing Time” (1936). Forever doomed to be half of a dance couple, Astaire shared billing with talented dancers such as Eleanor Powell, and Lucille Bremer when he came out of an early retirement to make a string of musical movies under MGM’s production banner.

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Arriving after the dust from World War II had begun to settle, and the American Dream was coming into focus, “The Band Wagon” takes an early stab at deconstructionist postmodernism. Astaire’s actor/dancer character Tony Hunter is an aging veteran of musical comedy whose star is fading. He’s been in Hollywood making movies for the past few years but the spark has gone out of his career. He arrives in Manhattan to read a script written by his husband-and-wife-team pals Lester (Oscar Lavant) and Lily Marton (Nanette Fabray), a couple of swinging kids who know the ins and outs of Broadway.

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The Martons take Tony to meet theatre renaissance man Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), a producer/actor/director capable of putting up the show with his connections to “angel” backers. The irrepressible Cordova has ideas of his own (most of them bizarre) about how to rework the Marton’s script into a wildly dramatized piece of musical entertainment. Zany rehearsal sequences give way to beautifully choreographed set pieces build on tunes from the (Arthur) Freed and (Nacio Herb) Brown songbook.

One such sequence, entitled “Girl Hunt Ballet,” unforgettably mixes noir movie tropes with Harry Jackson’s slick choreography; see Cyd Charisse as a red-sequined femme fatale to Astaire’s fedora-wearing private dick. Astaire throws jazzy kicks and punches as a Mickey Spillane-knock-off in a bar filled with killers and black-clad dames. Here is a glimpse into the future of jazz dance that Bob Fosse helped create in the years that followed. Coincidentally, Fosse choreographed his first Broadway musical “The Pajama Game” a year after “The Band Wagon” came out.

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“That’s Entertainment” (written for the film by Schwartz and Dietz) became a hit and a standard. Director Vincente Minnelli went on to a prolific career that included “Lust for Life” (starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh). Fred Astaire would only make three more musicals after “The Band Wagon,” before turning to a film and television career as a dramatic actor. Clearly, when he made this movie, he still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Not Rated. 112 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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