Friday, 24 August 2012

Review - Hans Christian Andersen (1952 - Dir. Charles Vidor)

And so we enter the disturbing, murky depths of musicals. I don't know whether I've mentioned it before, but I hate musicals: all that singing, dancing and being happy malarkey. Eating a family-size pack of razor blades, then drinking a pint of salt water to throw them back up would be preferable to watching a musical. I'd even gargle with TCP afterwards. Then chop off my legs with a blunt, rusty butter knife that's had Jamie Oliver dribblings all over it. And finally cauterise the wounds with an electric cattle prod set to maximum electrical proddage. I hate them.

Hans Christian Andersen kicks off our Musical Season, the lucky little fellow.

Worryingly, I'm going to start with a positive; this film could feasibly (very feasibly) happen. There are no scenes where people start singing, then suddenly everyone else knows the words and a huge choreographed dance is born. Yes, people sing, but they sing on their own. The only times when there are simultaneous dance manoeuvres are during the ballet sequences. I'll come back to them later. I was amazed at how many of the songs I knew. Admittedly, I have seen this film before but many, many years ago. I can't say that I liked any of the songs, but I knew them. One musical sequence is fairly bizarre, only just following the above rule. During a market scene the traders repeatedly sing what they are selling. My two highlights were: 'Fish. Fresh Fish.' in a lovely low voice and 'Sausages.'. Shame no-one was selling Ginster's pasties, that would have made a nice little tune.

The big, no, huge problem is that times have changed, and I really tried to put my brain into a 1950s mode when watching this film. It's no reflection on Danny Kaye or the film-makers, but it is a sad reflection on society now that when Hans is telling stories and talking to children, he comes across as a bit of a... well, I'll let you decide for yourself. I feel too mean to actually write the one word that sprang to mind. It is a shame that the connotations are so different now.

This is not actually a biography of Hans Christian Andersen but, as the opening scene helpfully describes, a fairy tale about his stories. It is successful in creating this atmosphere; the cinematography, sets and costumes certainly help. 

Now to the ballet. There are some ballet sequences early on. Okay, all well and good, although I can't say that I particularly like ballet (there is a see-through wedding dress in one scene though). In fact, I can't really say that I like dancers. Dancing, is fine. Top fun really. Dancers, with their excessive overacting: not so fine. I better not get into another rant. Back to the ballet. The first scenes are mercifully brief. But then the final ballet version of 'The Little Mermaid' lasts for about seventeen thousand hours, without any cuts to any other action. I completely switched off and the film lost it for me. To add insult to injury the ending of the film contains a medley of the previous songs in a Jive Bunny style. It finished me off.

It wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, but the final ballet sequence/medley combo definitely lowered the rating by a couple of points. Another four musicals to go; I am going to need so much vodka to get through this...

If you like this you could also try:
Court Jester, The Five Pennies, The Inspector General.

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