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|Index||107 reviews in total|
I agree with all of the previous comments about use of color filters for
"effect" during certain sequences. Not only is it too distracting to use a
red filter for 'Bali Hai', but the big question is WHY GO TO THE TROUBLE OF
FILMING ON LOCATION FOR REALISM NOT POSSIBLE ON THE STAGE and then create an
artificial look that is as unreal as it is annoying.
But that's not the only shortcoming of the film. Despite having a Rodgers and Hammerstein score that is probably one of the best in musical history with no less than ten outstanding numbers, Joshua Logan's leaden direction moves the story at a snail's pace and everyone seems to be acting as though there are folks in the balcony who can't hear them. Even perky Mitzi Gaynor (Doris Day would have been perfect) is unable to do for the film what Mary Martin was able to do in the stage version--namely, bring the character of Nellie to life as a believable person rather than just an actress who can sing and dance like a pro and cry on cue.
Rossano Brazzi has the requisite continental charm for his role as the French planter she is attracted to and his lip synching to Giorgio Tozzi's voice is well done. There are some good jobs in supporting roles but John Kerr as Lt. Cable is totally unsatisfactory as the secondary romantic lead. Ray Walsten repeats his stage role and his "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" is still one of the highlights. But oddly, most of the singers are dubbed even when they are legitimate singers--as for example Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary who sang the role on Broadway.
And oh, those filters!! Don't adjust your set if you watch it on TV. The purple faces may look strange but blame it on Josh Logan who had to put his own creative touch on what was already a master work! Although nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical the honor went to 'Gigi' in 1958.
For purists, listen to the original cast recording with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza and see what all the fuss was about!
This could have been great. The music and lyrics are wonderful (of course), the acting (with one exception) was good and they had beautiful on location shooting in Hawaii...and they STILL managed to screw it up! First off, most of the singing was dubbed and it's VERY obvious...especially with Brazzi...he gives out a good performance but he lip syncs horribly and the singing voice doesn't match his speaking voice! John Kerr (as the guy who falls in love with a native woman) is a lousy actor with an annoying voice. Also, he has no body--that's not too good considering he spends a lot of time with his shirt off. You really start to wonder why that woman fell for him in the first place. But worst of all are those stupid color filters--they totally destroy the film. I almost gave up watching it because the color changes were hurting my eyes! Also, you have beautiful scenery in Hawaii--why screw it up by making everything appear yellow or orange? It's extremely distracting and adds nothing to the film. The director Joshua Logan said, in later years, that the color filters were a big mistake. No kidding! ALMOST worth watching. Somebody should really remake this correctly.
No, "South Pacific" is not an example of "how low you can go." But
visually, this film has no movement. It just sits there; and it seems
eons before anyone thinks of camera movement. Naturally, it could be
argued that the makers preferred a conservative style of filming, and
(like John Ford) only moved the camera when there was a good reason.
Well, there was reason enough in "South Pacific"--a case of stylistic
atrophy. Even the actors seem enervated. Like professional, dependable
stage performers, they all hit their chalk marks. And then--like the
film--they just sit there too.
A movie script consisting of one static camera set-up after another is NOT symptomatic of Fifties film-making. By 1958, sound and re-recording technology had made it possible for directors to give motion to the term "motion picture." But in Joshua Logan's case, the Proscenium Arch rules all.
Occasionally, there have been stage-trained directors who have adapted their talents to the screen: D. W. Griffith certainly comes to mind first. (He's credited with having invented film language.) And more recently, there is the late Bob Fosse ("Cabaret," "Lenny," "All That Jazz"), a hard-core stylist in the truest sense. But here, Joshua Logan uses the tropical backdrop as one would in a staged play. And sure enough, there's good old Bali Hai, rising up behind the performers, just like the fake, painted plaster-of-Paris mountains used in bad stage productions. Some scenes in "South Pacific" are artificially tinted red or blue or purple--whatever color matches whichever mood, I suppose. This really is taking film-making back decades; even the sepia-tinted portions of Michael Curtiz's "The Sea Hawk" (1940) were a distraction. But Logan's "invention" is more than that; it's like some bit of style an amateur director might use to beef up a boring scene--mounting colored gels over spotlights and then aiming them at the performers. The whole movie is merely bad "filmed theatre."
About the only items that keep this lumbering dinosaur plodding along are the songs, which (mostly speaking) are real classics and well worth hearing again, even for the thousandth time: "There Is Nothing Like A Dame," "Bali Hai," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Happy Talk," "Younger Than Springtime," etc.
Mitzi Gaynor (as Nurse Forbush) is an actress who was born 15 years too late. As her quirky performance as the independent, free-spirited Adelaide Swanson in "Take Care of My Little Girl" (1951) had proved seven years earlier, she would have felt right at home on screen during the Thirties or Forties with all those other wise-cracking dames--Ginger Roger's Roxie Hart or Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson, for example. Here, she is merely adequate, even if she does do her own singing. Gaynor simply isn't square enough, though she tries--boy, does she try. Her prancing around during the "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" number is just so much busy-work--like watching a stage actress doing an uninspired set of calisthenics from one side of the stage to the other. She does manage to inject some life into the "Honey Bun" set. But by then, it's too late; the movie has almost completely withered away.
The night "South Pacific" first arrived in Denton, Texas--where my Mom (a big fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein) was a business teacher at North Texas State College (since re-named The University of North Texas)--she couldn't find a baby-sitter to tend to me (age 6) or my little brother. So we were dragged along to the downtown theatre to see "South Pacific" with her and a small audience of college students, all of whom seemed as anesthetized as we were. Mom needn't have bothered with the baby-sitter; I fell asleep in my seat shortly after the "Dame" number and woke up toward the film's end, just in time to witness Miss Forbush informing Bloody Mary and her daughter of Lieutenant Cable's death. True, that was long ago; but then some things never improve -- not even with age.
With musicals, people are very subjective. The film might be a decent
one; the story might be pretty good, but if the viewer doesn't like the
songs, he or she is not going to like the movie. That was the case here
with me, which is why I changed the headline from "The Good & Bad" to
"Likes & Dislikes."
LIKES - Unique cinematography gimmick using orange or yellow filters....Mitzi Gaynor as " Ens. Nellie Forbush" was pretty and had some figure! Wow! A couple of songs everybody (even me) likes: "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair." Overall sets and production values pretty high.
DISLIKES - Rossano Brazzi, as "Emile de Becque," didn't strike me as a great actor or singer; Juanita Hall's character, "Bloody Mary," gets really annoying after awhile. (I do like her name, though.)....at almost three hours, this is WAY too long.....Gaynor's character whimpers too much; Brazzi .....story now seems dated...overall did not like the songs.
I recently watched the tv version with Glenn Close as the 23 year old Nellie Forbush. Another stumble. What are these producers thinking? Why they didn't just film the Broadway show is beyond me. Mary Martin was a legend in this role, but the director cast Mitzi Gaynor. And shot it using some kind of bizarre filters that make it look like they didn't go to Hawaii to film it, which they did! I wish they'd used a bit more care and respect when they made this. The music is beautiful, and some of the acting is good, but overall this was a disappointment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know what it is but somehow the big Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway shows don't translate well to the screen, at least not for me. Of the four major smashes produced between 1943 (Oklahoma) and 1951 (The King And I) only the second, Carousel, comes even close to what a movie musical adapted from a Broadway show should be. At a rough guess I'd say that I'm in the minority here but so be it, I'm hard to please, sue me already. It's possible that if you haven't seen the show you won't have a problem with the running order being all at sea - when I saw it in a legitimate theatre the first song was Dites-moi and Bloody Mary, which is first in the film, was around fifth or sixth. By itself that's not enough to find the film disappointing but it seems badly cast to these jaded eyes. Rossano Brazzi is fine as a middle-aged Frenchman albeit he is actually Italian but not when cast opposite Mitzi Gaynor. Likewise she is okay as a vibrant but naive native of Little Rock but not opposite Brazzi. The score is fine - if not quite as standout as Kiss Me, Kate which opened on Broadway a couple of months before South Pacific - but put over listlessly by this crew, not unlike a Rolls Royce being driven in second gear on a long journey.
I saw this movie for the first time about 5 years ago on AMC. I stayed up till 2 in the morning watching it. Afterwards I wandered why i wasted my time, i didn't understand the point of the movie and fouind it rather boring. Recently, I watched the movie again and found what the message about prejudice and hatred. After it stuck me that the movies message was for a particular audience, the story was made to show America how someone can fall in love with anyone no matter what their background or skin color. The message was show specifically for the people who had lived through the war and knew what it was like to fall in love with someone overseas and then have to come back to a country where they were now considered unacceptable. I believe the movie could have been much better but it was far ahead of its time.
I'm a great fan of classic musicals. I've seen this a coupe times, though not in a Broadway quality road show. There is something not here for me. I know that much of the music is deeply embedded in Americana. I think it's the story. I just don't really care much for anyone in it. Nelly is basically a racist and though she comes around, that hangs over everything. I also believe that the treatment of Emile is unfair. He had made a commitment to himself and his family, and deserved better. But the bottom line is that as these people do their individual things, I never really care that much. The movie seems stilted and long. It doesn't work its way into the latter 20th and early 21st centuries as other musicals do. I saw a few scenes from Fiddler on the Roof the other night. It stands up because its themes and ideas are still relevant. Maybe someone needs to rework a few things. There are great songs.
One of the major problems with the movie 'South Pacific' is that the dialog is so stilted it's really hard to believe. I love the movie, mainly because I like the whole idea of the South Seas thing, but the lines must have been a real trial for the actors. "Live, Emil, Live" or whatever she said. I really think that with a rewrite, this could be a boffo show. And I'm not talking about turning it into a modern play with sex and violence. The songs, and the music behind them, are timeless. Maybe if I'd been around to see the original Broadway play, my attitude would be different. But, I actually was in a staging of South Pacific, and I don't recall the lines being any less wooden. On another subject, in the movie (and the play) they really had to pussy-foot around the whole point of the thing, which was that messing around with non-whites was verboten. Lutelan ('Saxy') Cable had to pay the price, but Emil was lucky, and he's not going to spend the rest of his life 'dreaming alone'. Maybe if he's lucky somebody will climb up his hill. I love it.
I love musicals but this just bored me stupid. The score was lacking where it could have been so much better and the entire thing was far too long. And what was with the color? The changing color filters were distracting, annoying and unnecessary. O&H did so well with musicals such as 'Oklahoma' and 'State Fair' but totally missed with 'South Pacific'.
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