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Fredrik Egerman is very happy in his marriage to a seventeen-year-old virgin, Anne. Only she's been a virgin for the whole eleven months of the marriage, and being a bit restless, Fredrik goes to see an old flame, the famous actress Desiree Armfeldt. Desiree is getting tired of her life, and is thinkin of settling down, and sets her sights on Fredrik, despite his marriage, and her own married lover Count Carl-Magnus. She gets her mother to invite the Egermans to her country estate for the weekend. But when Carl-Magnus and his wife Charlotte appear, too, things begin to get farcical (Send in the Clowns), and the night must smile for the third time before all the lovers are united. Written by
Fat, thin, fat, fat, thin, fat, thin! A new way to play shooters.
As production was suspended and resumed several times on this incredibly deadly version of what may be Sondheim's finest musical, the only pleasure in viewing it comes from watching Elizabeth Taylor's figure wax and wane. She is bloated in some scenes, slimmer in others, puffy, porky, then nearly svelte, then inflated, then...you get the idea.
I saw "A Little Night Music" three times during its first year on Broadway -- all with the original cast. I saw it on tour with Jean Simmons. I was so addicted to the cast album that I wore out several copies before switching to tape. On learning that it was to be filmed, I was filled with excitement.
But release was delayed, and delayed, and...FINALLY it came out. And so did the reviews. No, I said. It can't possibly be that bad!
Was I ever wrong!
First, the filmmakers made some really bad choices, beginning by relocating the action from Sweden to Vienna -- one suspects to capitalize on the "La Ronde" homage implied in Bergman's original. In doing so, they completely scrap the concept of the "perpetual sunset" (which, by the way is the title of one of the many songs cut from the stage version) of the thrice-smiling Scandinavian summer night.
That disastrous change is then compounded by the decision to "naturalize" the film, thus eliminating songs by the choral quintet of the stage versions, songs that commented so pithily on the action. This completely disrupts the ebb and flow of comedic complications, not to mention the wry rhythms of the score and lyrics which in the stage version were inseparable from the script. But there is an upside -- to serve the new concept, Sondheim has rewritten and rescored some songs so flaccidly, it becomes clear that the missing songs were actually shown mercy by being spared.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing to be salvaged from this film -- no wait, there is. Here's what you do: Get a bunch of friends together, pour each a shot, then pop the movie into the VCR. Every time Miss Taylor appears, hit the pause button, and have each friend predict fat or thin for the next angle. Then let the movie continue. If she's fat in the next shot, whoever called thin has to do a shot. If she's thin in the next shot...
This movie is so sloppy that by the end of the evening the only thing sloppier will be you and your friends. But in the morning you'll all be sober. And in the morning the movie will still stink.
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