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Funny Face: Centennial Collection DVD Review

Funny Face: Centennial Collection

January 16, 2009

Director: Stanley Donen,
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson, Michel Auclair, Robert Flemyng, Suzy Parker, Virginia Gibson,

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DVD Review

Funny Face (1957) started as a 1927 Broadway musical starring Fred Astaire with songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Paramount Pictures decided to remake it into a film starring Astaire and based on an unproduced musical play by Leonard Gershe. MGM was originally going to produce the film but they couldn’t get Audrey Hepburn to star opposite Astaire, so Paramount acquired it. Funny Face was her first musical and Astaire’s only choice as his co-star.

The film’s colourful opening credits sequence, with stylish photographs, was created by legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon, the basis for the character of Dick Avery (Astaire). Maggie Prescott (Thompson) is the publisher and editor of Quality magazine. She is dissatisfied with its current look and is eager to create a new direction. At first, she decides that pink is it – cue a rousing musical number praising its virtues, complete with pink shampoo, toothpaste and so on.

Prescott enlists Avery’s help to find a model that will be the face of this new look. While setting up a photo shoot in a drab Greenwich Village bookstore, Avery and Prescott discover someone who will embody this new look: Jo Stockton (Hepburn), the mousy, plain Jane clerk of the store. She openly disdains the fashion world with its “silly dresses on silly women” and its “synthetic beauty.” Stockton dreams of going to Paris but doesn’t have the money so she decides to take the job. Avery mentors her and eventually transforms the young lady into a model, taking her to Paris.

Director Stanley Donen shows off Paris in Funny Face as Astaire and Hepburn sing and dance their way through famous historical landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. It is an engaging and deeply romantic view of the city filled with all kinds of energy as personified by Hepburn’s vibrant performance. No scene better captures her effortless vitality than the one where she “expresses” herself through an amusing avant garde dance routine at a hip, subterranean Parisian nightclub, clad in her iconic black outfit – a style that proved to be very influential among women for years afterward.

Hepburn originally studied to be a dancer and shows off some very impressive moves, easily holding her own with Astaire – no easy feat. With Funny Face, Donen celebrates and satirizes the fashion world. It’s a funny, entertaining film bursting with life as embodied by Hepburn’s vibrant performance.

Special Features:

“Kay Thompson: Think Pink!” is a profile of this larger-than-life person. She was a singer and author of the famous Eloise novels. The featurette traces the humble origins of this fascinating person and examines how she broke into show business. Thompson became a respected musical arranger and befriended Judy Garland. They developed a personal and professional relationship that lasted for years.

“This is Vistavision” takes a look at the emergence of widescreen cinema, which was a response to the popularity of television. Vistavision was Paramount’s version of widescreen cinema. This featurette explains how it works and its history with the studio.

“Fashion Photographers Exposed” examines the role of a fashion photographer and what makes a memorable shot. Several elements all contribute to the perfect photograph.

“The Fashion Designer and His Muse” examines the relationship between fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy and Hepburn which began with Sabrina (1954). She became his muse, felt “protected” and comfortable with his clothes.

“Parisian Dreams” takes a look at the role Paris as the setting for Funny Face. In many respects, the city is another character in the film that brings out the romanticism in others.

“Paramount in the ‘50s” features a look at some of the memorable films that the studio produced during this decade.

Also included is an original theatrical trailer.

Finally, there are “Galleries” for production photos, movie stills, and publicity shots.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 95%

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