|Index||5 reviews in total|
I just saw this film on a not-too-great VHS copy and wish it could be
released on DVD. It would be a great companion to Tales of Hoffmann by
the same team, though it is quite different in flavor.
As in Hoffmann, the film is full of dancing--but much of it has an improvised flavor, a polka down the hall, a can-can by Michael Redgrave in full military evening dress and kepi, as well as lots of waltzing-- and some of the actors are lip-synching the arias as sung by folks with bigger voices. But there is also a lot of spoken dialogue, so the actors get to establish their characters in their own voices. The trouble is that the characters are still the silly, exaggerated characters of an operetta, with chiming watches, comic hangovers, and huge plot-enhancing blind spots.
The most interesting character is of course Anton Walbrook's Dr. Falke, the Bat. As in The Red Shoes and La Ronde, Walbrook plays the man who keeps the whole thing going, the leader of the dance, but here he is euphoric, almost ecstatic. Falke is presented as a black-marketer who arranges parties for the higher-ups of the Four Powers occupying Vienna, and keeps them on good terms with each other; he exploits them, lives off them--and he would like to see them all go home. He is witty and views everything with cheerful irony, but he never stops enjoying himself for a moment, never goes down, only up, up, up.
Ludmilla Tcherina is a delightful French farce heroine, flirting only when absolutely necessary. Michael Redgrave gets to do some great swooping physical comedy (apparently he also did his own singing, but who can tell?). Mel Ferrer comes off well in his light role as the old boyfriend, as does Dennis Price in a smaller role whose main duty is to be recognizable for plot purposes. Anneliese Rothenberger is a reminder of more conventional stagings, where the singers act instead of having actors "sing."
I felt that the 1955 setting was a bit thin--were the 50's really THAT much about denying what had happened and "moving on"? Maybe they were--Pressburger and Powell were good at telling where the wind was blowing.
Powell & Pressburger take Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" and update it. I'm not familiar with the original work, but from what I can tell most of the plot points remain intact. The updating comes in the form of bringing it to postwar "Four Power" Vienna (like THE THIRD MAN) with some light commentary on the occupation. My problem with opera is quite similar to my problem with Shakespeare. The story is being advanced in a manner I find difficult to comprehend. Sometimes it's alright, but whenever there's a large chorus singing, it all sounds like mush to me. And some of the ladies go into that ridiculously high register where all words turn into "aaaaaaEEEEEEeEeEeEeee!!!" Still, when I couldn't make out the words I managed to get most of it from context, and the movie is fun musical comedy. The farce is well-constructed and the performances are very enjoyable (including Michael Redgrave being far more flamboyant than I would have ever imagined him). It's not brilliant, it's not stunning, it doesn't stick with you, but it's a good little romp with some nice tunes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Referential? You've got to be kidding. Start with Peter Ustinov's The Love Of Four Colonels than throw in a 'borrowing' from Max Ophuls' La Ronde, made more blatant by employing the same actor Anton (Tilly)Walbrook to do the narration-to-camera. As if do divert attention from the plagiarism Powell and Pressburger cheerfully own up to taking Die Fleidermause and 'updating' it to the immediate post-war Vienna, still divided into four sections and ruled by four powers. For me, Michael Redgrave was the selling point though Iconcede that for others it may have been the Strauss operetta - it's hard to see Mel Ferrer being a draw. Whatever, it's a sort of soufflé manque and amusing in parts.
Surreal, not even taking into account the operetta part. Slightly
subversive, too. Normally, surreal and subversive are a great mix, but
this one just keeps tripping over itself. I kept waiting for it to get
off the ground, and in the process sort of enjoyed the weirdness. But
it's not a good movie by any measure.
Think Dr. Caligari crossed with the worst Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musical you've seen (ok, with better music, but is anyone really _that_ into Strauss?). Or maybe The Third Man on a tremendous amount of ecstasy, except that's way too kind.
My wife thinks Mel Ferrer's performance might have been an inspiration for Jim Carrey's acting style. That's the kind of quality to expect.
We are big champagne fans and this movie was sponsored by a big French
champagne outfit and it couldn't have been more appropriate. The post
Vienna setting was marvelously bubbly and clever. Where better to set
international tale of deception and decadence.
With the recent US occupation of Iraq, this film may be newly relevant. After all,Oh ... Rosalinda! was a plea for an end to the occupation of Austria. The party was over in the mid50s. In another ten years, perhaps, there might be a wonderful remake set in Bagdad.
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