Two Americans on a hunting trip in Scotland become lost. They encounter a small village, not on the map, called Brigadoon, in which people harbor a mysterious secret, and behave as if they were still living two hundred years in the past.
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Americans Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, on a hunting vacation in Scotland, discover a quaint and beautiful village, Brigadoon. Strangely, the village is not on any map, and soon Tommy and Jeff find out why: Brigadoon is an enchanted place. It appears once every hundred years for one day, then disappears back into the mists of time, to wake up to its next day a century hence. When Tommy falls in love with Fiona, a girl of the village, he realizes that she can never be part of his life back in America. Can he be part of hers in Brigadoon? Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
And that is exactly the story BRIGADOON tries to tell. Two urbanites from New York, Tommy (Gene Kelly) and Jeff (Van Johnson), are grouse-hunting in Scotland--yes, they've come all the way to Scotland to shoot grouse, if you can believe that to begin with!--when they happen upon the tiny magical little Scottish village of Brigadoon, a (very literal) throwback to the mid-18th century in customs, livelihood and people. The Campbells are holding a wedding for their daughter Jean, whose sister Fiona (Cyd Charisse) is the first person who doesn't treat the strangers like... well, strangers. It doesn't take long, just a walk through 'The Heather On The Hill', for Tommy and Fiona to fall deeply in love. The only problem is that Brigadoon, thanks (or not) to their eager chaplain Mr. Forsythe, surfaces once every hundred years--it's been two hundred since Mr. Forsythe made his 'contract with God', and only two days have passed for the villagefolk in that same year in 1754. The question becomes one of love, of whether one is able to give up everything for a miracle: just as Mr. Forsythe has to give up his beloved Brigadoon to bring it its miracle, Tommy and Fiona, because 'if you love someone deeply enough, anything is possible', get their miracle as well.
There is certainly charm aplenty in BRIGADOON: the morning fair 'Down On MacConnachy Square' is lively and bustling; the beautiful dance between Kelly and Charisse as they gather 'The Heather On The Hill' is tender and beautiful, with more balletic romance than any choreography of Kelly's to date; even the forward girl who tries to turn Jeff's head (only to disappear from the movie thereafter) is cute in her way and her fervent belief that she might actually have a romance like that of her parents. BRIGADOON most certainly sets out to charm--even the general dodginess of the Scottish accents does not really detract from the rest of the film.
However, there is an element of uneasiness in BRIGADOON, perhaps conscious, perhaps not, that somewhat undermines its message. It wants us to believe that it really is the humanity, the *kind* of humanity that one gets in Brigadoon and in New York that makes one place preferable to the other. This is quite unsubtly displayed in the merry dreaminess that surrounds Brigadoon, in contrast with the almost *too* loud chattering that goes on in the New York bar teeming with humanity. Yet one is never quite sure whether Brigadoon is really the utopia it appears to be: this is underscored by the fact that (despite Kelly's pleas for on-location filming in Scotland) the scenery is obviously constructed on a set. It's still eerily beautiful in a fake way, and this is the trouble with the village portrayed in the film. Everything *seems* perfect, idyllic--happy and charming and easy and light. But then you learn the real history of the village, and the aura surrounding it doesn't look so much as magic but as *black* magic. Mr. Forsythe sounds more like an authoritarian dictator obsessed with his Brigadoon than a benign sweet old chaplain, and when Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing) tries to make a break for it, the hunt for him and the subsequent covering up of his death has such sinister undertones that one really starts to feel uncomfortable about what the people have become in the two short days (for them) that they have known about their village's uniqueness.
Of course, the film itself actually states this uneasiness that the audience will feel, not merely suggests it. This is evident in how Tommy performs a gentle reprise of his courtship dance with Fiona and rushes off, full of glee and love, to tell Jeff that he is staying in Brigadoon... only to be persuaded by a few curt sentences from Jeff that he should really give up the love of his lifetime to return to reality, to return to New York. Jeff plays the cynical, hard-headed pragmatist in all of us, and is then immediately depicted as a drunkard who spends all his days lounging in a bar, broken by his own inability to have faith in a 'miracle'. It's fitting for this film full of contradictions that the person who saved Brigadoon was the one who refused to believe it, and that the people of Brigadoon were saved by the death of one of its number.
Perhaps this is far too much analysis than BRIGADOON can bear. If one doesn't poke beyond its shiny, lavish MGM surface (and there really is no need to), then it is merely a star vehicle for Kelly, not a particularly good one, but one that is moderately entertaining and does allow him to showcase his talents (though again, not too effectively). The best number is probably the most famous song in it, 'Almost Like Being In Love', sung by a heart-light and foot-merry Kelly as he dances through a Scottish farm. The runner-up would be the beautiful 'Heather On The Hill' couples ballet--Kelly's ballet training really comes to the fore in BRIGADOON, his other films having been more influenced by tap dancing.
All in all, a charming package with a sinister underside, if one can believe that this shadowy underside to BRIGADOON--both village and film--could exist. 7/10.
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