181 Sweet Charity

Discuss Blu-rays released by Indicator and the films on them.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Nov 10, 2020 2:31 am

Just when I thought there weren't any more favorite musicals to 'discover', I was surprised to be utterly bedazzled by Fosse's debut. Starting with the amusing credits sequence, every frame of this masterpiece is popping with life, imbuing ceaselessly inventive technical experimentalism to emulate the kaleidoscopic hippie context, oxymoronic composed explosions of spectacle, and creative knee-slapping gags inspired by those found in classic 50s musicals. I'm apparently the lone wolf who doesn't get the fuss over the Fellini film, but here we get an interesting contrast of musical possibilities with anti-musical realities that don't play by the 'rules', fluidly moving between sequences and serving the themes of that story fittingly vis an eccentric route. Normally the musical number is a safe space where the heroine can be the center of attention, and that's true here to an extent, but even in the numbers MacLaine can be sidelined as Fosse, we, and even she becomes totally distracted by the psychedelic iconography, lost in the shuffle like all of us as we collectively swoon over the superficial facade of an exciting revolution covering the stagnant cores of gender imbalance and social immobility.

The "fickle-finger fate," where things happen to her without her consent or even awareness ("I guess you're supposed to know") is exceptionally impactful in this milieu because the energy around MacLaine doesn't match the content. She can't even sustain attention during the numbers (i.e. the nightclub moment where everyone notices her, before all eyes deviate onto the dancers for an extended period of time - so long in fact that we forget about MacLaine entirely!) and in the bulk of the numbers where she is featured, almost all of them end in the most jarringly abrupt transitions possible, revealing their impermanence and pitiful dream logic. Plans made with friends are immediately dropped with a cold snub, a potential tryst is interrupted by another woman- leading to a shameful retreat into the closet, and of course the opening push into the water is such a sharp cut, it's sobering in a way Fellini's film can't be within its comfortably consistent tempo. Embodying a tone of pure drama allows for little surprise, but Fosse's film takes us on the rollercoaster ride of hope in musical joy and then drops us against expectations, time and time again, so we can feel MacLaine's destabilizing experience as she too fails to see what comes to her.

Some of these embarrassments are played off with humor in the moment, but there's a lurking hopelessness from patriarchal trappings that feels like a page out of Quine's world in My Sister Eileen. A really nice touch is the introduction of Oscar, as simply a man stuck in the elevator freaking out, while MacLaine is apathetic to the experience: this is an allegory for her life, as a woman; yet her skills at resilience cynically don't matter much when the elevator gets fixed. The man's reaction is hilarious, but the unsettling implications of the lows on either side of this high are soul-destroying in their pronounced divergences. I'm making this out to be an upsetting film, but the treat is that it's anything but, just as Quine's film is an absolute joy. There's a subtext begging to be acknowledged, but also so much intentional phantasmagoria that Fosse and Simon are inviting you into a fugue state of ignorance at the same time. I believe this is a film designed to be digested with enjoyment on every possible level the medium can offer- through surface-level extravagant pleasures, narrative emotional payoff, and validation of deep-rooted sociological truths.

I haven't had this much fun thinking, feeling, and passively smiling from sublime cinematic inebriation in a long time, and this is a film that thankfully doesn't force us to experience all of these at once, but one at a time, and at our convenience. There isn't overwhelming pressure to conform to any one mood; all are paths welcome. The 'tire' scene is a perfect example of this genius emotional choose-your-own adventure, because the revelatory beginning of drama actuated by Maclaine is -in opposition to the numbers->reality 'sinking feelings'- shockingly interrupted by the context of the situational gag and then the absurd state of the man verbally cutting-off MacLaine to jump for joy about overcoming one of his fears (others of which misogynistically assign her fatalism in the end in double standards, based on irreversible history). The tire-emergence ensuing insanity is so funny and delightful that we can forget the implications here, or what important information she needed to get off her chest before we re-entered fantasyland, or we can hone in on that a little earlier. I mean, the artificiality of Fosse literally freezing the wedding celebrations to pause self-reflexively and give us a chance to remember not only what this is but what's coming, sells it all with playful permission. Eh, what's the point in writing on and on about layered artistic intelligence that needs to be seen and heard to be felt and appreciated.
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The final gesture of love too is wonderfully ambiguous, in taking that hippie culture's naivete and rhetorically proposing that choosing this outlook of optimism may be the best bet, regardless of how much water it'll actually hold; while on the other hand, suggesting that perhaps MacLaine's magnetism to drinking the koolaid of this blind optimism is what causes these life events to just "happen to her" without consciousness, time and time again. Is it partly her fault, or all society's? And even if it's partly her fault, is she still doing the best she can under her marginalized circumstances?
Oh, and the overture is perhaps my new favorite overture, period. Indicator strikes again.

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The Curious Sofa
Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2019 6:18 am

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#27 Post by The Curious Sofa » Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:35 am

I watched the blu-ray last night, last having seen the whole film decades ago on TV and I saw a production of the show at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London in 2009. Not being a fan of Fellini at the best of times, I definitely prefer Cabiria with choreography by Bob Fosse. But it's a very slight story to sustain 2 1/2 hours and the two best sequences, Hey Big Spender and Rich Man's Frug, take place in the first half hour of the film.Rich Man's Frug is probably my favourite dance sequence in a musical and I've watched it another five times after I finished the film. Fosse's experiments with freeze frames and slow motion don't always work, they feel like him getting to grips with a new medium.

It was interesting watching this not long after Fosse/Verdon and I have some vague awareness that MacLaine was considered not to be able to hold a candle to Verdon's performance, but she's about as perfectly cast as can be, if you have to have a movie star of the era in the lead. Having looked at clips on youtube of Verdon performing numbers from the show, MacLaine takes a more naturalistic approach, while Verdon's performance appears scaled for the stage, not that I don't doubt that she could have dialled it down for the film.

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MichaelB
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Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#28 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 03, 2020 6:27 am

A quick heads up: the limited edition of Sweet Charity is already on the low stock list.

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#29 Post by senseabove » Wed Jan 06, 2021 1:17 am

Has anyone else played this succesfully with a hardware-modded Oppo BDP-83? When I choose to play anything—any version, any extra—I just see the menu background with no other text than the movie title, and the soundtrack to whatever I chose plays. Skipping forward plays the audio of whatever chapter I've skipped to, but still just shows the menu background. The only exception are the extras that start with a static image, like the Super 8 version or the Sammy Davis Jr. interview, which shows the starting text screen and then just plays the audio. The image gallery works fine, but nothing else... The subtitles even play over the menu screen background if I enable them.

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#30 Post by senseabove » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:34 pm

FWIW, I dug out my old region-free Seiki and it played the feature fine, so it seems like the 83 just doesn't like this disc for some reason. This might be the only B-locked disc I have with seamless branching, so maybe that's it...

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MichaelB
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Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#31 Post by MichaelB » Mon May 31, 2021 5:43 am

MichaelB wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 6:27 am
A quick heads up: the limited edition of Sweet Charity is already on the low stock list.
...and it's now officially OOP.

A standard edition will follow later this year.

Calvin
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:12 am

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#32 Post by Calvin » Mon May 31, 2021 12:48 pm

Well, that can't hurt the chances of Indicator doing My Sister Eileen

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willoneill
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:10 am
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Re: 181 Sweet Charity

#33 Post by willoneill » Tue Sep 14, 2021 12:19 pm

senseabove wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:34 pm
FWIW, I dug out my old region-free Seiki and it played the feature fine, so it seems like the 83 just doesn't like this disc for some reason. This might be the only B-locked disc I have with seamless branching, so maybe that's it...
I just tried playing this disc today, and I encountered the same problem you did, except for me it was with my Seiki, which sadly is the only Region-B player I have. I've never encountered a similar problem before. I've had a few Buster Keaton MOC discs that would only play audio, but with a blank screen, not the menu background. And those, so I was told, were due to the features having high bitrates, which Sweet Charity does not, as far as I know.

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