During the Great Depression, a sheet-music salesman seeks to escape his dreary life through popular music and a love affair with an innocent schoolteacher.During the Great Depression, a sheet-music salesman seeks to escape his dreary life through popular music and a love affair with an innocent schoolteacher.During the Great Depression, a sheet-music salesman seeks to escape his dreary life through popular music and a love affair with an innocent schoolteacher.
Dark story thats expertly made
This film in a way reminded me of the recent "Far from Heaven" in that it captures the spirit of an art form but doesn't ignore the harsh realities of life. Story is about a sheet music salesman named Arthur Parker (Steve Martin) and its set in the depression era. Parker is married to frigid Joan (Jessica Harper) and after being turned down repeatedly by her he leaves and says he's not coming back. On the road he picks up a homeless accordion player (Vernel Bagneris) and head into the next town. While there he spots a local school teacher named Eileen (Bernadette Peters) and is smitten at first sight. He courts her and one night he gets intimate but Eileen gets pregnant and has to leave her job at the school. Meanwhile, Arthur has gone back to his wife and they try to make their marriage work so she loans him some money to open a music store. Eileen has become desperate and goes into a sleazy bar and meets a pimp named Tom (Christopher Walken) and there she says her name from now on is Lulu. She becomes a prostitute and one night on the streets meets Arthur and they get back together and decide to run off together leaving Joan behind. Meanwhile, the accordion player see's a blind girl and rapes and kills her. The girl had talked to Arthur before and the cops follow the clues that lead to him so Arthur is now a wanted man. Film is directed by Herbert Ross who has a background in music and he brings a totally convincing look from the 30's and the small details in every shot add so much flavor to this film. The films cinematographer is the great Gordon Willis who shot many of Woody Allen's films as well as the "Godfather" trilogy. Willis shot this film in a grainy and dark mode to give the reality sequences of the film a stark contrast to some of the brighter moments that take place during the song and dance numbers. I thought the performances were arguably some of the best that some of these actors have ever done. Walken was taught at a young age to be a song and dance man and as far as I know its the only time he has shown his real talent on film. We already knew what a wonderful singer Peters is but the one scene that stood out for me was when she was in the bar and agreeing to Walkens character that she would be willing to do anything for a fin. It was a convincing job of desperation on her part and its a moving scene in the film. What more can you say about Martin? The first time he opens his mouth to lip sync a song you can't help but laugh but with Martin he makes it appear more than silly. It wouldn't have worked with another actor but Martin brings so much to his screen presence that it appears to be okay that he's doing this. The dance number that he and two other men perform in the film is nothing short of astonishing to watch. I can't imagine how much training he went through for that scene. As great as Walken's tap dance number was, this might be the most impressive dance number in the film. Martin's performance is just a revelation to watch. Yes, the films story is dark and dreary but thats because Ross wanted to make a more sarcastic musical. This film is a real achievement and should be viewed by all.
- Jul 31, 2003
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