Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Star Is Lost!

(John Howe, 1974)
The National Film Board’s second feature musical of 1974 has an alibi: it’s one of those ‘affectionate tributes to the golden age of the Hollywood musical.’ The affection is genuine enough, with a number of benign little performances by types that appear to have been rounded up from the NFB parking lot, as well as some slapstick business that might have been fitfully amusing if Howe had any idea how to capture it on film. You’d think a movie about movies would have the courtesy to put some thought into camera placement and editing rhythms, but the whole project is so desolate and lifeless it makes “Canada Carries On” look like Arthur Lipsett. The alleged mystery - who is sending threatening letters to stodgy starlet Tiiu Leek? - is undermined by the fact that there’s only one suspect, whose motivations and movements are visible for all to see within minutes. Howe's big musical numbers are completely static, his songs devoid of lyrical or melodic content. And the way the protagonists resolve the narrative by puttin’ on a show is the final evidence that affection and comprehension are not the same thing at all.

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