The Band Wagon standard DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 1 Old 11-24-08, 10:41 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
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The Band Wagon standard DVD review

Eye candy. Imagine the most vibrant colors over the rainbow. Color so vivid
they're practically hallucinatory. Primaries that made Technicolor "Glorious". Well
if you would like to experience them yourself then the standard DVD Special Edition
of "The Band Wagon" is for you. It looks so outlandish you might assume
it's a blu ray if you project it. I actually saw a 35mm re-issue Technicolor print of
this movie in my home theater about a decade ago and the current DVD replicates
it to the point where I could barely tell the difference on my 10 foot screen and
Optoma HD70 DLP.

So it looks great. But is it a good movie? Well for me it was quite interesting because
it captured the 'feel' of putting on a show. Whether you're making a feature film or
Broadway stage show or even high school amateur production, the experience tends to
be similar. A group of complete strangers work around the clock in very close relationships
to make it happen. You get to know these people very well, for a brief period of time and
perhaps will never see or work with them again. But for that short time you are
connected even if you know it won't last. It's a very strange type of personal relationship and this silly MGM extravaganza depicts it accurately.

Vincente Minelli (Liza's father and Judy's ex-husband) came from the stage and really
knew how to make stylish Technicolor musicals. What they lacked in plot or dramatics
they made up for in visuals and energy. This one may be his best regarding those attributes. Now admittedly it's not realistic in any way shape or form. When Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse do their haunting dance in Central Park it's completely fantacised one although one could argue that's how the characters saw it through their exhausted haze. In real Central Park they would probably be mugged even back in 1953 and it certainly wasn't immaculately clean without homeless people sleeping on benches. But in their imaginary Central Park (staged by Michael Kidd) it works dramatically and is one of the best Astaire numbers of all time. If you accept the premise that Astaire and Charisse are living in their own sheltered world outside of everyone else, then the film works quite nicely.

As for the story itself it makes absolutely no sense. The 'high concept' is that movie
star Fred Astaire is a has been since the type of musicals he was popular in are considered dated as they were at the time. So he decides to return to the stage where ham actor, Jack Buchanan, is planning to do some kind of pompous 'arty' version of "Faust" which puts it at odds with the show that Nannette Fabray and Oscar Levant wrote. They describe their show as the story of a children's book writer who decides to write Mickey Spillane type of pulp fiction to survive.

So after lots of arguing and romantic affairs, Buchanan puts on his version which is a bomb. So Astaire decides to save the show and his relationship with Charisse by selling off his valuable paintings to produce the mainstream show the authors intended. Except...the show they end up putting on has no relationship with what was described earlier. It appears to be some kind of Ziegfeld romp with Top Hat numbers and a funny routine where they sing a song portraying little bratty children. It's absurd. The point is to relax and enjoy the singing, choreography and incredible three strip Technicolor.

Would I recommend this mess of a musical? It is what it is and I enjoy the 'atmosphere' of putting on a show that it accurately depicts and the brilliant hues that make "The
Wizard of Oz" look pale in comparison So you'll have to decide for yourself. But if you like eye candy movies, you might get a kick out of it despite the obvious flaws in terms of it's narrative structure.

"The Band Wagon" along with "Singin' the Rain" are usually classified as having
been produced by "The Freed Unit" at MGM referring to the types of musicals made
by ex-songwriter Arthur Freed. Like so much of what's written by film historians,
this classification was created after the fact. There was no specific "Freed unit"
there. Freed's product outgrossed other musical producers like Jack Cummings
so he tended to get the first pick of the available actors under contract so most
of his pictures featured Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire but that didn't mean they
weren't allowed to star in other producer's projects. Another instance of post-studio
classification is the term "Film Noir" (dark film) which was coined by some critics long after these movies were made. Robert Aldrich was quoted in an interview saying that he didn't know he was making a 'film noir' thriller when he directed "Kiss Me Deadly". He was just following a trend of making movies with a more cynical perspective
which was a post-war direction.

In summary: Picture quality A, sound quality B +, cinematography, color design, and choreography A, performances and dancing A, story and screenplay C.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-02-08 at 05:52 AM.
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