on April 22, 2003
Here we have a story of fashion and romance. Givenchy provides the fashionable clothes. George and Ira Gershwin provide the music to set the scene for romance. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire provide the romantic intrigue, costarring Kay Thompson for added comic relief. The story takes place in New York City and in Paris on the Seine River in France. These choice ingredients mix well to give the viewer an inviting slice of life in the fashion world, seen as songs, dances and splendid fashion shows. There is even a spoof of French philosophy. With excellent timing and camera work, and the consultancy of Richard Avedon, this film and its story present a happy moment to be revisited by an engaged film fan. Director Stanley Donen has made it happen with a screenplay by Leonard Gershe, and choreography by Eugene Loring and Fred Astaire.
The editorial review for this movie states that it was ..."an unproduced play".
This is very misleading.
If memory serves this movie was based on what was to be a Broadway play originally entitled "Wedding Day" but MGM came a calling and bought the rights before it ever reached the stage.When MGM had second thoughts it got passed on to Paramount where they finally turned it into the movie we now have.
However Fred and his wonderful and talented sister Adele first introduced Funny Face(the PLAY-similar score but totally different plot) to the world back in 1927.It hit Broadway and had an extensive and fabulously long run into mid 1928.From there Fred and Adele took it to the London stage and repeated its' wild success there well into 1929.
Upon its' arrival on the screen in 1957 Paramount lifted four songs from the original 1927 George and Ira Gershwin songbook and added two more by Leonard Gershe and Roger Edens.
It is certainly a movie influenced by its' times with its' central theme based around the late 50s coffee house/beatnik/philosophic phenom of the day.These were the days of Sartre,Kerouac,Ginsberg and cool jazz.
Director Stanley Donen almost paints this film with his heavy use of colouring from beginning to end.
Audrey Hepburn was also a kind of phenom of her own during this period.One of the most popular actresses of the day and one of the most emulated from her hair style and clothing to her petite figure.She gives a pleasing performance and is quite good overall and the director gives her many a camera-loving close up.
However her co-star is the real rock and foundation of this film-the inimitable Mr.Fred Astaire.
His first dance number is 'Funny Face' with Audrey in of all places a dark room (he could dance on top of a garbage dump and make it seem like a cloud!).But you soon forget where they are as Fred takes the movie to a different and wonderous level.As in any Astaire routine he speaks volumes without a single word telling his partner and us what it is exactly he's trying to say.And through it all one word says more about him than any other....class!!To say he was without peer is absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever.I never will cease to marvel at his virtuosity and style.
His next number is a solo effort "Let's Kiss and Makeup".Watch for his tossing of an umbrella into a stand many feet away(no trick photgraphy either!).
Both Fred and Audrey are ably backed by the irrepressable Kay Thompson.This was a good part for Kay because there was nothing subtle in Kays acting or vocals as she played everything "big".Kay was quite the club maven and was well known among other things as having the Williams Brothers as part of her act at one period.When they broke up one of the brothers,young Andy, went on to have more than a little success as a solo singer.
All in all this is good movie musical and a feather in the cap for all concerned.It's not one of Fred or Audreys' best films but it still certainly manages to entertain and hit the mark today in both the music and the dance routines.
on July 14, 2004
Funny Face has just about everything going for it. Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Stanley Donen, great Gershwin tunes, a terrific rare glimpse of the incomparable Kay Thompson and above all some of the most exciting visuals and overall art direction ever caught on film. So what happened? The sad decision to let Hepburn do her own singing. That's not to say her voice is bad. It's very... nice. But for a full blown musical of this scale, the audience is yearning for Hepburn's character to really give out with a great set of pipes. Perhaps not quite to the extent of Kay Thompson, an actress perhaps better suited for the stage than the intimacy of the screen. Yet while the movie does not fulfill its promise, it's still well worth seeing. The transformation of Hepburn from mousy bookstore clerk to haute couture model is as wonderful as her similar transformation in "Sabrina". The modeling sessions with Astaire directing Hepburn are delightful and above all the VistaVision presentation of late 50s gloss can not be matched, (the opening credits nearly make up for the entire movie). With Richard Avedon and Suzy Parker's influence the movie almost makes you forgive its failings. Still by the last frame the audience is left with only one thought: "Where's Marni Nixon when you need her?".
on March 4, 2003
I just saw this the other day, and forgot how wonderful it was! The wry commentary on the fashion industry (and the fashion models themselves), the use of locale (Paris), song (Gershwin), and color (Donen) is wonderful. The color is especially superb in the fashion photo shoot (which is brilliantly illustrated betwixt Astaire and Hepburn), and gives marvelous detail behind each camera set-up (with a scenario, a motivation, a series of props, and finally an end result beautifully shown in a trick montage of film separation and negative process). This has always been my favorite scene in the film (being a former photographer myself), and I was further surprised to learn years later that the Astaire character was modeled on real photographer Richard Avedon. Color is further exploited in other scenes: the red darkroom light used as sole illumination in the "Funny Face" dance, the soft-focus green grass in "He Loves and She Loves," and even the drab monotone of the NY bookstore where Hepburn sings "How Long Has This Been Going On?" But I must give special mention to Kay Thompson's magazine editor: smart, witty, hilarious, nearly stealing every scene she's in. (Astaire: "They've been in there for hours. Thompson: "There was a LOT to do.") One of the best things done by director Stanley Donen.
on January 9, 2003
In 1957, Paramount produced a very enjoyable musical comedy called "Funny Face", directed by Stanley Donen, and to the music of George Gershwin, Adolph Deutsch, Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe. With a simple plot, the film begins in New York City within the offices of the major fashion magazine named "Quality". Its president, Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), is determined to find a new way to promote the magazine. In a moment of inspiration, she comes up with the slogan "Think pink," and breaks into song praising the color pink and saying that everything (from women's clothing, soap, furniture, etc.) must be pink. Of course, she "wouldn't be caught dead" in it.
Moving on to another magazine project, Maggie wants to find the perfect spot to photograph one of the magazine's models named Marion (Dovima, who was a major fashion model in the 1950's working closely with photographer Richard Avedon. This was her only film.). An assistant suggests that they go to a bookstore in Greenwich Village to create an intellectual atmosphere. Maggie, Marion, a host of Maggie's staff all in pink and the magazines head photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), force their way into a dingy, but quiet, bookstore along with all of their equipment. A store employee, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) protests the uninvited intrusion vehemently, but the "Quality" magazine army locks her out of the store to work undisturbed. After several hours, the "Quality" mob vacates, but the books and store are left in a shambles for Jo to clean up. Dick offers his help to clean the store, but Jo refuses. After Dick leaves, Jo proceeds to sing another wonderful song in the film, "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
Maggie decides that "Quality" must find a real "Quality woman" to represent the magazine and it isn't Marion. When Dick develops the photos taken at the bookstore, Jo is in one of them. He suggests to Maggie that Jo could be the woman that they need, but Maggie has her doubts. To lure Jo to the "Quality" offices, they order a large number of books and want them delivered. Jo arrives hours later with a pile of books and is accosted by Maggie's staff who want to redress her in preparation for a photo shoot. Jo escapes and hides in Dick's dark room. They talk and he sings to her another of the film's title song, "Funny Face". Jo completely disagrees with everything that "Quality" magazine represents; she believes in "empathicalism", a philosophy that rejects all material things, as described by her idol, Professor Emile Flostre, who lives in Paris. When Jo is told that the "Quality woman" photo shoot and a fashion show will be done in Paris, she reluctantly agrees to be the model since it will give her the opportunity to meet Prof. Flostre.
The film continues in Paris where Jo models many clothes designed by Givenchy and a romance between her and Dick Avery develops. Jo finally gets the opportunity to meet Prof. Flostre (Michel Auclair), but will he meet Jo's expectations? Will the romance between Jo and Dick survive the photo shoot and meeting Prof. Flostre? Does Maggie get to produce the Paris fashion show of your dreams? You'll just have to watch this very entertaining film to find out!
The songs in the film include:
* "Think Pink" 5/5, Kay Thompson. A fast, snappy & whimsical song.
* "How Long Has This Been Going On?" 5/5, A blues song sung by Audrey Hepburn at the bookstore.
* "Funny Face" 5/5, Fred Astaire. A charming song.
* "Bonjour Paris" 5/5, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson. A fun song filmed at various locations in Paris.
* "He Loves and She Loves" 4.5/5 Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astair. Filmed at Le Château de la Reine Blanche in Coye-la-Forêt with Audrey Hepburn modeling a wedding dress.
* "How To Be Lovely" 5/5, Kay Thompson and Audrey Hepburn. A fun & gutsy song.
* "Basal Metabolism" 4.5/5, A blues song that Audrey Hepburn dances to in a bistro.
* "Clap Yo' Hands" 5/5, A fun, melodramatic blues song sung by Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson to sneak into the bistro. (a.k.a. "Ring-a Them Bells")
* "Let's Kiss and Make Up" 4.5/5 Fred Astaire. A love song sung again at Le Château de la Reine Blanche.
* "'S Wonderful" 5/5, Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Another love song sung at Le Château de la Reine Blanche.
Some may think that "Funny Face" is nothing more than fluff, but it was produced to entertain with color, fashion, music, dance and comedy and it does so very well. The acting, singing and dancing from Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson is quite good and I rate "Funny Face" with 5 out of 5 stars. If you're primarily interested in Oscar-winning dramas, "Funny Face" may disappoint you; but if you enjoy light-hearted musicals and like to laugh, then you'll probably be very entertained with this fun film!
on January 6, 2003
Audrey Hepburn rarely looked lovelier than in this gorgeous musical comedy, inspired loosely by the career of photographer Richard Avedon. One of the most beautifully photographed colour films ever (and oddly enough not directed by Vincente Minnelli), this Stanley Donen charmer stars Fred Astaire as a magazine photographer (a la Avedon) who discovers a waifish Greenwich village bookseller (Hepburn) and turns her into a supermodel. He carts her all over the world as the new face of fashion, though for her the excitement is simply in having the chance to travel and visit philosophers she has long admired. Pretty soon her lofty ideals clash meanly with the low mental expectations and hard-working ethics of the modeling industry, but thankfully her managing editor (a delicious Kay Thompson) is there to keep her in line. The story isn't too much admire, not to mention that the romance between a twenty-something Hepburn and a three hundred year-old Astaire is just a bit rich even by Hollywood's standards, but anyone watching will be too enchanted by the visuals and the lovely music to mind very much. Songs include a whole spate of musical classics, including "'S Wonderful", "How Long Has This Been Going On" and "Bonjour Paris", highlighted by an excellent dance number that Hepburn performs in a Parisian beatnik bar.
on May 16, 2001
I don't think I've ever seen a good print of this film till I bought the DVD, which is fabulous! I'm not a die-hard Audrey Hepburn fan, but she is very charming and looks fabulous in the fashions. I love the ability to skip the numbers I don't like with the DVD since I find this a very uneven film. When it is good it is nearly flawless (and that's most of the time--opening credits, Think Pink, Funny Face, Bonjour Paris, The Photo Shoots, S'Wonderful, the final fashion show) but when it is bad it is horrid (a 60 year old Fred Astaire trying to be a beatnik, Fred's unending "matador" dance number, the whole plot with the Professor, Clap Yo'Hands). I was disappointed in the additional features--the original trailer is ho hum and the Paramount "documentary" is really just an extended sales pitch with bad stock footage. Where's an interview with the great Stanley Donen? Still, overall well worth purchasing.
on July 16, 2001
It's always nice to watch your favourite stars, and I expect this movie would fall completely flat if it wasn't for the presence of Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. As it is, the first half of the movie is remarkably dull and stodgy and fails to entertain. Things start to pick up thereafter, from about the point of Astaire and Hepburn's photoshoot around Paris (with some nice location filming), but still the results are somewhat mediocre by comparison with the stars' other movies. By 1957 movie musicals were moving beyond the kind of lyrics that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, but the writers of 'Funny Face' seem to have missed out on the trend, and most of the songs belong to an earlier era of movie-making. The star presence and a few memorable moments save the day, but otherwise the whole thing is rather a disappointment.