Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Musical Madness

I guess I'll dispatch these two movies in a single post. The theme: music.

First: Salt and Pepper (1968). Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford own a club in swinging London. Davis is Salt, Lawford is Pepper ("Confusing, isn't it?" is the punchline to that gag). When a semi-comatose Asian woman turns up on the floor of Lawford's office, he assumes she's just stoned and makes a date with her. But she winds up dead and they wind up in the middle of a plot to... Wait, I almost remember, something about a nuclear submarine in the middle of a forest... Nope, I can't remember or maybe I never really cared.

Also, Sammy does a few songs and at least one is an attempted rock 'n' roll number, but none of them are very good. Basically, this is sub-Matt Helm stuff. There's one joke about I Spy that reminded me of how much better that show was.This movie was directed by Richard Donner - his first feature. He had directed Get Smart and Man from U.N.C.L.E. episodes, but never I Spy.

Next up: Nine (2009), the film adaptation of the musical adaptation of Fellini's 8 1/2. Now, I love 8 1/2, so this is either the best or worst thing for me to watch - maybe best and worst. I suppose you know the original story - a famous Italian director is starting a new film and doesn't have the faintest idea what it is about. All he has is anxieties and fantasies about women.  

Nine starts with one of the climax scenes from 8 1/2: the Revolt of the Women. Our director, Daniel Day-Lewis standing in for Marcello Mastroianni, imagines all the women in his life as totally subservient to him. When they threaten, he beats them back. It makes a lot of sense to stage this as a Vegas-style chorus line, but it is much more dramatic in the original.

Of course, it's hard to beat that original. Take the music: as a musical, Nine is full of songs, mostly interesting pieces of pop artistry. But the original had Nino Rota. Discussion over, Nino Rota wins.

My favorite part of Nine was the women. It's a neat trick - the movie's all about a male chauvinist, but the women that he surrounds himself with are wonderful. They include Marion Clotillard as the wife who knows him too well, Penelope Cruz as his mistress who knows a thing or two as well, Nicole Kidman as the blonde bombshell who is his muse, Fergie as the slut-goddess of his childhood, and of course, Sophia Loren as his late mother. Judi Dench has a role that isn't in the original material, his long-suffering costume designer. They all do a great job. Without them, this movie would not have made much of an impression on me, I'm afraid.

I might need to kind of taper off the musicals.

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