Judge Gordon Sullivan has an appointment with the plastic surgeon scheduled for next Tuesday.
"Take the picture! Take the picture!"
Combine one of the world's hottest hoofers (the always dapper Fred Astaire), one of Hollywood's most effervescent ingenues (the ever-lovable Audrey Hepburn), and the director of one of the world's best-loved musicals (Stanley Donen of Singin' in the Rain fame), and you've got a recipe for a classic musical comedy: Funny Face. For Funny Face: Centennial Collection, its third release of the film, Paramount has retained the spectacular transfer of the previous 50th Anniversary release and added some new extras to the mix. Although this release is better than either previous one, it's still not the definitive edition of Funny Face that fans deserve.
Facts of the Case
Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's) is an innocent clerk at a small Greenwich Village bookstore who has a passion for the obscure philosophy of "empathicalism." Her small world is shattered when a team from women's magazine Quality decides to "borrow" her store for a location shoot. During the uproar, she meets photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire, Top Hat) and is immediately charmed (even if she won't admit it). Dick decides that Jo would make the perfect "Quality Woman" and creates a plan to get her to Paris where she will model an exclusive line of clothes from a famous designer. She is resistant to the idea, until she realizes that the trip to Paris would allow her the opportunity to visit the heart of empathicalism in Paris' cafe scene. Once in Paris, Dick has a difficult time getting Jo away from the bright lights, even as the two fall in love. Naturally, some miscommunication will keep them apart until they realize their love for one another.
Funny Face is by far one of the most effortless and lighthearted films I've ever seen. From Fred Astaire's gentle demeanor to Audrey Hepburn's infectious smile, every element of the film seems ready made to provide escapist entertainment of the first order. For all of that, it doesn't leave that overly sugared taste that many other films that aim for lighthearted leave behind. All of the joy expressed in the performances (especially the dancing) seems very genuine, as if each actor didn't want to be doing anything else but performing in the film. This is, sadly, a rarer quality than I'd like.
Although most of the credit for the film's tone goes to its stars (especially Astaire and Hepburn), Stanley Donen deserves a good part of the credit as well. While much of the shoot is studio-bound, these moments have a reality to them that is often lacking in musical sets. For instance the cafe where Audrey Hepburn feels the need to dance is obviously not a real cafe, but the atmosphere that Donen works gives it a charm that transcends the sometimes awkward sets. When the shoot goes on location in Paris, the magic really begins. Shots of iconic Paris locales brim with life in front of Donen's camera.
The audiovisual presentation of Funny Face: Centennial Collection seems substantially similar to that of the 50th anniversary edition of 2007, and there's nothing wrong with that. The print is remarkably free of damage, color is strong, and compression problems are absent. The only hiccup occurs during the film's final scene, as the print seems to have degraded during the middle of the last song. It's brief, and the performances are so strong I doubt it would ruin anyone's viewing. On the audio front, the restored 5.1 surround mix is clear and free of hiss and distortion, although directionality isn't significant. A mono mix is available for purists.
The extras from the 50th anniversary have been ported over as well. From that disc we get three featurettes which discuss Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy, the film's locations, and Paramount's role as a studio in the 1950s. The remaining extras are exclusive to this edition. The first is "Kay Thompson: 'Think Pink,'" which profiles the actress who portrays the editor of Quality magazine. It's almost half an hour in length and covers her remarkable career. "This is VistaVision" covers the fascinating cinematic process which has given us the look of so many distinctive features. Finally, "Fashion Photographers Exposed" covers a fashion shoot and is intended to add some historical context to the fashion world shown in the film. The disc rounds out with photo galleries and the film's theatrical trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although I enjoyed watching Funny Face, I am less impressed with its musical aspects. None of the songs really stood out to me as particularly hummable (although the conceit of "S'Marvelous" does tend to stick around). The dancing was also a little excessive to me. I enjoyed each of the dance scenes, but I felt each went on just a little bit too long. A little bit tighter pacing would have helped give the scenes a little more impact.
On the DVD front, this disc is somewhat disappointing. This is the film's third release on the format, and it comes out fast on the heels of the 50th Anniversary Edition. This release should be the definitive statement on the movie, but it just doesn't feel up to par with other releases in the Centennial Collection, in both quantity and quality. What's here isn't bad, but not enough of it feels like it illuminates Funny Face. A commentary from a film scholar or historian, and a few more featurettes and documentaries on the film's production and impact would be greatly appreciated.
As a film, I can heartily recommend Funny Face, both for the performances and the direction. If you've never seen the film and you have any interest in musicals, it's at least worth a rental. If you have to buy a version of the film this is certainly the one to buy. If you've got the first Paramount DVD, then the audiovisual upgrade is sure to please. However, if you have the 50th Anniversary Edition, there's no reason to make the upgrade.
Funny Face is acquitted of all charges, while Paramount is warned that they've set a bar with the Centennial Collection release of Sunset Boulevard, so fans are going to expect those level of extras from each release in the line.
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