Astaire loves Hepburn's... Funny Face (1957)
It was 2008. My sister and I were wandering around Target aimlessly. Naturally, I gravitated to the movie section -- I was about a year into my obsession with classic films, and I was still in that phase where every old movie I found, my heart burst because I never saw it before and I was so excited that a mainstream place like Target would have it and therefore acknowledge that my adoration wasn't all in my head, that others enjoyed it as well and my growing passion wasn't a lost cause. I still get a twinge of that every now and then, but nothing like when I laid eyes on Funny Face in that Target aisle. Fred Astaire was already one of my favorites, and of course I knew about Audrey Hepburn but I had really only seen Roman Holiday. Finding out that these two megastars had made a movie together blew. my. mind. And yet, for some reason, I didn't buy it. Somehow my sister talked me out of it and the second we left the store, I regretted it. And I let my sister know how upset I was for three days straight. On the fourth day, my dad was driving us by Target when I began my tirade again and, bless that man, he offered to stop so I could buy Funny Face. You could have seen my sister's eye roll from outer space, but the joy I felt when I had the DVD in my hands at the checkout line is something I relive every time I watch the movie.
This is all to prepare you for the immense praise I'll be heaping on this film. Granted, on my blog I hardly ever talk about movies I don't like, but Funny Face is really something special and timeless. You have eternal icons Astaire and Hepburn, the incredibly sweet music of the Gershwin brothers (with additions from Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe), the most beautiful clothes from Givenchy, and the always
impressive setting of Paris. However, the one thing that repeatedly strikes me at every viewing is just how gorgeous this film looks. I have never seen a movie, classic or modern, that looks like this one. I think we need to credit two people with that: Stanley Donen, the brilliant director, and the film's inspiration/visual consultant, photographer Richard Avedon. The compositions and ideas in the "Think Pink" montage and the images during the opening credits both have his fingerprints all over them, and it makes the movie truly unique. Without Avedon's direct involvement, I'm not sure Funny Face would be quite as enduring as it is.
"Think Pink." Cue the delightfully wacky montage! "Think Pink" demonstrates the power of Maggie and her
"How Long Has This Been Going On?" One of the joys of Funny Face is that no one was dubbed -- it's a Hollywood miracle! Audrey may not have had the finest voice, but not everyone can be Judy Garland or Doris Day. I happen to really enjoy her voice, and yes, I'm one of those who is outraged by what they did to her on My Fair Lady. Finding a hat from the photo shoot, Jo plays with it
"Funny Face." The couple does a little dance and by the time it's over, Jo is ready to give the modeling business a try, albeit reticently. As she sees it, it's a means to an end -- she'll get a free trip to Paris, where she can spend time chatting about philosophy in cafes and attending the lectures of her idol, Prof. Flostre. Once their plane lands, our three stars sneak off to do
"Bonjour, Paris," a fun travelogue that makes you yearn to join them. I'm definitely listening to this song as I arrive in Paris, whenever that will be. By song's end, Maggie, Jo, and Dick bump into each other at the Eiffel Tower and have a good laugh at their failed slyness.
"Basal Metabolism" is a part of Audrey's legacy that people seem to only vaguely know the details about; they've seen the posters and they recognize the outfits, but that's about it. You might know
Gap commercial that aired years ago that featured Audrey's dancing set to AC/DC's song "Back to Black." The number is eccentric, to say the least. Eugene Loring's choreography matches the bohemian setting to a T, and while the dance had my sister scratching her head when she watched it with me in 2008, I loved it. Audrey gets to be weird and it's tremendous.
"Let's Kiss and Make Up" to Jo
here. I put my own screenshots of it at the end of this post, per usual.
"He Loves and She Loves" is an exquisite number, filmed dreamily with swans in the background and lots of soft focus. This is all movie magic, of course. In reality, the ground was horribly muddy, making the dance very hard to do. At one point, Hepburn joked "Here I've been waiting twenty years to dance with Fred Astaire, and what do I get? Mud!" Being professionals, though, you can't even detect a trace of their discomfort in the scene. It all comes off beautifully.
"How to be Lovely" in preparation for her introduction as the Quality Woman to the press. It's laughable that someone has to coach Audrey on being lovely, but the gals sell the hell out of the song. It's adorable, really. Eventually, the night before the show arrives, which is when Jo is supposed to meet the press. She's all dolled up and ready to go, but
"Clap Yo' Hands," is such a treat. Astaire fakes playing a guitar and doesn't even try to do it correctly; Thompson is a fierce ball of energy; the lyrics are almost nonsensical. If anyone ever needed proof that Ms. Thompson was a supreme talent, they should look no further.
"S'Wonderful" in celebration.
Nominated for Academy Awards for original screenplay, best cinematography, costume design, and art direction, the film lost in all categories. Of all the nominations, I can't believe it lost for its costumes. (The winner? Orry-Kelly for Les Girls.) While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, Funny Face is not to be missed. If you can't find one thing you like about it, I don't think I want to know you.