Sunday 20 May 2018 1.03am
‘Ringin’ in the Pain – A Modern Response’ 2018
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
A Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly Film
I’m taking a poll – just a few hours ago – on how this film relates to several people who have never seen it before. This is where I ask for each person’s response to the film. I could be bringing in scores of 3 out of 10 or 5/10. I have no idea. This is where I learn how a sixty-six year old film stands up today. I might well be ringin’ in the pain:
The Focus Group
Six adults: 76, 70, 55, 45, 43 and 42. Four kids, 14, 12, 7 and 5. That’s the recipe. Watch if they smile, watch if they interact, be happy if they laugh.
I took a poll afterwards. It’s the BFI Sight & Sound thing-to-do.
It received a “9.something” from Hamish and a “better-than-9″ from Caitlin. Geoff and Chris and Kirsty gave it an 8. My daughter, Charlotte almost gave it a 9. Becky was asleep for the last thirty-minutes but I think she would have given it a well-deserved 7. Ali gave it an, “I don’t know, 9½, 10. You know it’s in my top ten. Actually, my top five.” I didn’t ask Bruce but I’m guessing a 5, maybe a 7. He’s hardcore, maybe even a 3.
I give it, all things considered, somewhere between an 8.6 and a 9½, depending on the breakdown of scenes. There are magical dance moments where the film is an 11 out of 10. There is choreography that blows my mind. Add set design, orchestral arrangements, musical arrangements, editing, montage sequences and overall conception, and this is a film that does even the basics at a 9. And then it gets better and better. It does just 5% badly and everything else is pure gold.
It’s a shame that we have to sit through the first ten minutes to get to the first laughs and first songs and dances. It’s a long opening, but Hey! in 1952, they weren’t making it for kids. They didn’t have television or the internet to manage those three or four minutes of the kids yelling, “I don’t have anything to do!” or “I’m bored. I don’t have anything to do.” What they did have, in abundance, in 1952, was patience.
In 1952, patience wasn’t a virtue, it was a way of life. Actually, it was a fact of life.
To come to my own viewpoint, here, Singin in the Rain is brilliant, but I have to break it down more than almost any other film I’ve ever seen because it tries to do more than any other film – and does it well. Tells the story of stuntmen, silent films, movie-stars and nobodies, the introduction of talkies, and captures the essence of the studio boss and the star director, captures the way vaudeville was the forerunner to film comedies, and shows it is looking-far-beyond-current-musicals, to music and dance as it will develop in the next two decades.
As for the Cyd Charisse dance sequences, that is beyond anything I’ve seen before 1952 and is as good as anything from this era of the early fifties. I think this dance sequence created the sexy ballet/dance number which Cyd Charisse did a few times after this film. [But I’m not sure, so I should research it – The Band Wagon (1953), obviously was inspired by her dance number in Singin’ in the Rain.]