#74: Singin’ in the Rain

Who's hand is that up there?

Who’s hand is that up there?

Director: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen
Year: 1952
Genre: Comedy

I avoided watching Singin’ in the Rain for the longest time due to being over-saturated with the titular musical number, since the day I was born, and believing the film to be a plotless musical literally about singing in the rain.

Luckily, I was fortunate enough to catch this masterpiece on the big screen back in 2009 and I was shocked! Shocked by how blown away I was; shocked by how ahead of its time the script was; and shocked that for the first 23 years of my life I was living a lie!

Singin’ in the Rain is an extraordinary comedy set in Hollywood during the dawn of “talking pictures” in the late 1920’s. The plot revolves around Hollywood’s 2 hottest stars, who pose as a couple to increase their popularity, and the trials and tribulations they must face during the transition from silent films to talking pictures. You may have seen The Artist (2011), which explores this very same subject matter with the added gimmick of being a black-and-white silent film itself. The Artist is a great film in its own right, but it pales in comparison to Singin’ in the Rain’s hilarious Hollywood commentary and deliciously extravagant musical/dance sequences.

The fabulous, and epic musical set pieces of Singin’ in the Rain highlight the superficial indulgence of Hollywood by taking every aspect of film production to decadent heights all at once to create a spectacular extravaganza not matched till, perhaps, Moulin Rouge! (2001). Whilst the sequences are entertaining enough on the surface, there’s a level of commentary suggesting that in order to stay in the limelight and hold the public’s attention one must constantly up the anti by taking entertainment to ridiculous levels. Such commentary couldn’t be any more relevant today with our short attention spans and the wide variety of accessible platforms we now have in entertainment and technology.

The success of the film doesn’t solely rest on its musical sequences, however. The cast, lead by Gene Kelly, sell the screenplay’s witty dialogue and endearing banter with their infectious charisma, leaving no room for “filler” in between musical numbers.

Of course, if you detest musicals all together, there’s no way I can recommend this sophisticated-Hollywood-extravaganza to you. But, if you were like me five years ago and you were expecting nothing more than old-fashioned, frothy nonsense, then forget everything you thought you knew and put your raincoat on!

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#95: Touch of Evil

touchevil2

Is that a cheeseburger? Or are you just happy to see me?

Director: Orson Welles
Year: 1958
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

A couple drives a car through the U.S.-Mexican border. The car explodes on American soil killing the couple within. An honest Mexican drug enforcement official, Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), and a bitter old police Captain, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) face off to close the investigation before the other one can. How far will Vargas go to ensure a just investigation and protect the integrity of his country? And how many rules will Quinlan break to put the case to rest as quickly as possible?

Touch of Evil is the last great Film Noir and one of Mr. Welles’ masterpieces. SEE Welles himself give an electrifying and unforgettable performance as alcoholic and magnificently overweight police Captain, Hank Quinlan. FEEL the fear and paranoia Janet Leigh went through before her iconic role in Psycho. LICK the rich textures of the film’s stunning black and white cinematography. And DON’T fall off the edge of your seat when you’re experiencing the many thrilling set-pieces Welles constructed.

There is one unfortunate downfall in that the protagonist, Miguel Vargas, is supposed to be quite Mexican but he’s portrayed by none other than Charlton Heston. Whilst the man is a fine actor, his being cast in that role is a silly and racially patronising choice by today’s standards. Such a decision would be unforgivable today but as Touch of Evil is a 50’s film, Heston’s portrayal can be laughed off as nostalgic charm.

Touch of Evil is a sophisticated investigative thriller with a touch of freshness and Orson Welles is that touch. A typical Welles film promises striking black and white cinematography, a sly sense of humour, and a dark and slightly twisted sensibility towards its drama, which to me is most effective in the Film Noir genre, hence why Touch of Evil is my favourite of his films.