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Funny Face

Directed by Stanley Donen

USA, 1957

Cornerhouse, 23 February 2014

Funny Face

A bold and bright musical, a late cinematic starburst of Fred Astaire’s sublime dance steps.

Debonair, romantic, still strikingly light of tread, his athleticism worn as nonchalantly as his chic threads, the film belongs to Astaire all the way.  Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson (a battleship built for Broadway shows and good times), the Gershwins’ songs, Avedon’s photos (Astaire’s character is a version of him, so his reputation must have been significant even in the ‘50s), Technicolor’s bold palette, the city of Paris itself: naturally they play their part.  Nonetheless, when Astaire dances he eclipses all.

Like almost all musicals, Funny Face is a romance with fairytale elements, this one charting Hepburn’s journey from ugly duckling/intellectual bookworm to beautiful swan/glamorous model.  Yet it also manages to take an affectionate swipe at the worlds of the fashion magazine and Greenwich Village, the Paris of haute couture and the Left Bank.  Sartre is name-checked at one point; he was still everybody’s pop existentialist.  Even after David Rousset had exposed him as an apologist for Stalin’s gulags.

Funny Face is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season, further details are here.