Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Chorus Line (film version)

Mrs. Sgt. T likes musicals, on both stage and screen. She's been watching A Chorus Line lately (the 1985 Richard Attenborough film version), and yesterday I sat down and watched it with her.

I won't bother with a comprehensive review: it wouldn't mean much coming from me. Broadway is mostly lost on me, and so is dance. I wasn't even going to blog it at all, but this morning Mrs. Sgt. T asked me what I liked best about it, and what I liked least about it, and I realized that they were the same moment.

To wit, the big climactic musical number, "One." I hate this song. I hate its insipid melody and bovine rhythms. I hate its silly, glitzy lyrics. I hate that at the end of a long movie, this piece of expensive tripe is what we're supposed to climax to. I hate the whole gold-lamé jacket and straw hat style of production number. I hate the Rockettes, for Pete's sake.

As a sequence on film, though, it was the first segment of the movie that really caught my interest, though. It quite elegantly captures the subtext of the story - out of these disparate individuals (effectively individualized through the course of the story), the Broadway musical forges a group. They're many, but they move as, yes, "one." Irony: none of them, now, are a "singular sensation" - none of them individually is "one" anymore. And Attenborough presents it cleverly, with the mirrors multiplying the dancers, and the gradually receding camera accentuating the depersonalizing effect of the costumes... And with Cassie most of all we get a pitiful, pathetic picture of the dancer eager to depersonalize herself, to suppress her singularity so she can be part of that "one" - so she can dance.

I get it, I think. I.e., I can recognize that there's a lot of thought going into it, a lot of careful thematic arrangement in the story and characters as well as the music and the dance.

So let's leave it at that.

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