Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Easter Parade

Disclaimer: Easter Parade gave me an oddly difficult time in finding a best shot, so this ends up being somewhat rambling (and way more than one shot.)
Easter Parade begins with a song. Don Hewes saunters down the street calling “Happy Easter” to everyone he meets in a fashion which seems, perhaps not decidedly exaggerated but definitely fanciful. But, visually, the film isn’t fanciful or exaggerated in its mise-en-scene, or it doesn't seem fanciful to me. The eponymous parade of the film sees the elite strutting down the street in their Easter garb and they LOOk gorgeous and yet it seems generally "normal". You’d notice the musical sequences ar not perceptibly differently lit or shot than the non-musical ones in the way they are in – for example Singin’ in the Rain, another musical that incorporates musical sequences as a stand-in for regular dialogue as well as stand-a-lone numbers that are scenes from the show within the movie.

So, as I watched the film and musical scenes and their lavish costumes and general sweetness I still was struck by the simplicity with which it all came across Charles Waters shoots it hall, not the leasy bit stylised. Take for example this shot from my favourite number (which, itself, seems a bit like a throwaway one - it's one in a series of songs that forms a medley of numbers from Hanna and Hewes).

Visually, I'm so intrigued at how basic the shot is. It's shot entirely from that angle so you don't see their complete costuming, or footwork but I love how relaxed they are. Because we can't see their feet (so we don't think to look for dancing) we're focused on their faces and it makes me think the slightest bit of Liza and Joel's Money number (and Astaire does look like the slightest bit the Emcee with those ears) and even though I don't buy their eventual romance the cosiness of Hanna and Hewes is just...well, it's just sweet.

Which brings me to the romantic foil that wasn't - the professor. The Umbrella number is my second favourite, which is odd considering how even less ostensibly interesting it is but I just find this shot beautiful.

The number itself is so impossibly organic in its naturalness and it elicits  one of Judy's warmest smiles in the film and how could one resist a fella with an umbrella?

As far as shots go, this beautiful fake-out is my runner up. We'd expect the two to lock lips here. It is Peter Lawford's best scene and Walters is of course teasing us with what we might expect to be the romantic heart of the story...but is not. Even, though, in a way I feel it backfires because as beautiful as the shot is - it seem to be out of another movie. One more earnest in its romantic elements.

For, the strongest element which jumps out for me in regards Easter Parade is how, for want of a better word, unreal it is. It's sweet and easy and pretty (not in a grandiose way, though) but I'm not particularly invested in Hewes and Hannah rising to stardom or in their romance either. And, even as I prefer the Professor to Don, I'm not particularly miffed about Hannah's ultimate choice. Which is what brings me to my actual best shot - which is Judy-less and something very superfluous in a way.

Maybe I'm being unfair on the Easter Parade because its opening scene promises prettiness upon prettiness but it's not overtly so - Judy's final performance number has her dressed as a ragamuffin after all and I don't know why it is I kept wanting this already pretty film to be prettier. Nonetheless, it is the obviously synthetic prettiness of the "Magazine of Beauty" which I turn to.

The entire sequence ends with this gorgeous shot of all the women from magazines but it's not as gorgeous as this.

My Best Shot
And, it's curious - the shot really is not a very good encapsulation of the film on the whole. The film does not take great pains to be pretty like this number does, and the sequence does not contribute decisively to the story arc but I like to muse about things - for example - of the double imagery here.

 Hanna's dilemma is that Hewes is trying to make her into Nadine and its the anonymity of Hanna which first makes Hewes decide on her. And, the shot there is beautiful because of the way they're framed erasing their individuality, and making them so alike and it makes me think wouldn't it have been nice to see a Miller/Garland number where Hanna and Nadine face-off...or better yet, team up?

This post is part of Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, this week it's all about Easter Parade.


Jose Solís said...

We singled out the same 2 shots! I love your fave one too but how can you choose something that doesn't focus on Judy?

Paolo said...

The magazine took me back to the Busby Berkeley days and stays true to it even though it's in colour and the camera is more free. Awesome choice.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jose i'm so surprised that the professor and hannah were your focus, i felt like no one would care for them.

paolo and it's so PURTY! (shallow.)