BU Film School

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

FT 540 Lecture: Thursday, June 19

The musical
The study of the musical is the history of motion pictures, parallels the development of film, also reason for said development. Most self-reflexive form there is -- putting on a show.

Heartbreak central. Betrayal, heartbreak, stupidity, greed. Condemnation of human behavior. Bad marriage between art and business. The funnier, the nastier. Story, themes haven't changed.

Origin of the musical
At one time, over 300 venues for operettas. Cabarets, etc. Light opera, operetta (from Austria) -- romantic musical. Exotic settings (the Rockies, Africa, etc.) Clashing of cultures, male/female. Social observation.

End of WWI, emigration of East European Jews. Add jazz, ragtime, African rhythms, Southern spirituals -- mix of music. 1918-1955 (up to Elvis, British Invasion), American musical never better. Music mix, lots of venues, sheet music, radio, records, big bands. Singer stepped in front (Sinatra) -- became central, lyricas became central, songs rediscovered.

Movie musical -- American.

Physical form
Musical looks at itself. Inside proscenium -- shooting a dance. Taking pictures of play ... so make more complex, bigger arch, bigger sets, moving camera (can do fun things -- overhead shots) -- still play. Busby Berkeley -- choreographer, was with RKO (cheap musicals), Warners, MGM -- had MGM $.

Begin the Beguine
Only 20-odd cuts, camera keeps distance, spectator.

Arthur Freed -- became producer. Was given unit at MGM. Responsible for greatest MGM musicals, talent.

Busby B. moved dancers around in way that made use of film. Arthur Freed opened up soundstage. Inevitably musical taken outside.

On the Town
1940s. Based on Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free (Robbins did not choreograph movie). 3 sailors on shore leave during WWII. 1st time cameras taken outside of theater. Lots of running around city, different settings. Camera still static lot of time, concentrating on dancers. Leonard Bernstein did some of music for "On the Town."

West Side Story
Robbins (choreographer) and Bernstein (composer) - 1960s. Great camera work. Film moves with dance. Rhythmic editing. Camera becomes dancer. Cutaways.

An American in Paris
Impressionist paintings - romantic reverie. Cutting much more active. Everything going on. Dufy, Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Utrillo.

cutting - end one emotional beat, begin another
dolly-crane with movement
personality - cutting within scene

Can develop emotion.

High Society
"Well Did You Evah?" Personality transcends form - can shoot just the same as a dialogue scene.

Pal Joey
1st antihero in musical. "The Lady Is A Tramp". Also like straight drama. Reaction shots, stating theme, etc. Using lyrics like dialogue.

Films covered in lecture
Singin' in the Rain
The Bandwagon
All That Jazz


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