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Paramount Studios presents
"I don't want to stop, I like it! Take the picture, take the picture!"
DVD ReviewFunny Face stars Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton, a mousy young Greenwich Village intellectual who finds herself crowned the "Quality Girl" for a fashion magazine spread at the distinguished hands of editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire). Taken to Paris for an extended photo shoot featuring the designs of Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng), Jo finds true love, though not with her idol, the philosopher Professor Emile Flaustre (Michael Auclair).
Even as musicals go, this is a trifle, and it's a remarkably mixed bag. The film marked Hepburn's musical debut, and she proves herself an energetic, able dancer, though her singing is breathy and occasionally off-key. Fred Astaire charms and sings with quiet sophistication, though the great hoofer only gets to cut loose on the dance floor a few times, and a mock-bullfighting conceit gets old before its time. Veteran director Stanley Donen keeps his camera moving throughout, which imparts cinematic energy to the less-than-inspired book, and the enduring songs by George & Ira Gershwin are just great, even when they do little to advance the plot.
But Funny Face shines in unexpected ways. Brilliant Harper's Bazaar-inspired designs (assisted by photographer Richard Avedon) permeate the film, with a strongly visual credits sequence and striking use of color and form. Kay Thompson, who only appeared in a few movies, is a revelation here, dancing, singing and delivering a strongly charismatic performance at the age of fifty-five. And the cinematography benefits from deep focus and extremely sharp detail, thanks to the VistaVision "motion picture high fidelity" system, often used for demanding special effects sequences (even today) to mitigate generational loss from optical printing.
So what's the final verdict here? Fred Astaire dances. The Gershwin songs are still clever and musically inventive. Audrey Hepburn is luminous. Audrey Hepburn is luminous. Audrey Hepburn is... (whizzy-whik) Recommended.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Paramount presents Funny Face in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with an anamorphic transfer. Despite some source print dirt and damage, persistent dust on the camera lens, and a high level of grain in one outdoor sequence, the overall look of this VistaVision production is stunning, with an amazing level of detail and rich color that makes the film look much younger than its forty-odd years. Unfortunately, the dual-layer digital transfer isn't always up to the challenge—there's some compression artifacting in busy, high-contrast areas, a touch of edge enhancement and moiré patterning, and enough scan-line shimmer to make progressive-scan playback a near-necessity for this title. Not perfect, but still very, very impressive and a testament to Paramount's handling of its classic library; to quote the film's theatrical trailer, it's "So Beautiful You Won't Believe Your Eyes!"
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Funny Face is presented in restored English monophonic, French mono, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 formats. The restored English track sounds quite nice, though dialogue is sometimes a bit muddy, with an audible quality improvement when the pre-recorded musical numbers kick in. Frequency range is limited by the technology of the day, with very little bass content, but the music sounds fairly clean overall. The electronically-engineered, marketing-driven 5.1 remix simply spreads the monophonic audio out a bit, and the unrestored French dub is fairly noisy, which at least gives one an appreciation for the English restoration effort.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:50m:02s
The trailer and the Photo Gallery are both nicely presented in anamorphic widescreen format. The featurette briefly covers such classics as Sunset Boulevard and Roman Holiday (though all film clips are presented in full-frame) and features some historical footage of Paramount stars. It's not a thorough overview of the decade by any means, and it's a generic piece available on many other Paramount discs, but Audrey Hepburn is prominently featured.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsFunny Face is a cute, fluffy movie musical with design sense to spare. Paramount's DVD features a quality transfer, well deserving of a rental spin and a worthy addition to anyone's classic musical library.
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