Friday, 14 March 2014

Funny Face (1957)

Audrey Hepburn's male partners are a good case study for Hollywood sexism and ageism. In the 1950s and 1960s, she was often paired with older men, some old enough to be her father (Bogart, Cooper, Astaire, Fonda and Cary Grant - although he was in a category of his own). While we are expected that this bright, gorgeous creature could fall in love with older men; older women often had to suffer if they dared wishing to be interested in virile young men. This is one of the more extreme cases in this series - at some stage Astaire actually says that he doesn't care for her intellect. In the same vein, there is a scene where domestic violence turns rebellious women into devoted ones (this is set in France, so it could be aimed at French women). In fact, faced with Astaire's irrestitible charm, she abandons all intellectual preocupations for love.
Stanley Donen directed "Funny Face", which tells the story of a pretty young girl with intellectual ambitions that accepts a job as a modelling job in Paris so she can meet her favourite philosopher. Recycling Gershwin songs, it really intended to cash on Audrey Hepburn's stardom.

The satire has dated badly (the intellectual circles, the philosopher more interested in more material pursuits), and the romantic bits are over the top (the swans and the barge are really good examples). Hepburn is beautifully photographed (and the new restoration looks impeccable) and murders a few Gershwin songs (particularly "How long has this been going on?") but she has nothing else to do other than showing pretty clothes - although she does it well, creating an iconic image in the Louvre sequence. As for Astaire, all he does is repeat all he had spent the previous two and half decades doing. And while it's fun to see Paris in the 1950s (and how little the city centre has changed) and Givenchy and Edith Head get to show off their talent as designers, I fear this one is for hardcore Audrey fans only.

The sole redeeming feture of the film is Kay Thompson who gets the best number ("Think Pink!") and lightens up the others she appears. Oh, and Audrey's photographs within the film are very good indeed.

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