Paramount Home Video presents
Funny Face (50th Anniversary Edition) (1957)
Dick Avery: Every girl on every page of Quality has grace, elegance, and pizzazz. Now what's wrong with bringing out a girl who has character, spirit, and intelligence?
Dovitch: That certainly would be novel in a fashion magazine.- Fred Astaire, Alex Gerry
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire
Other Stars: Kay Thompson, Michael Auclair, Robert Fleming
Director: Stanley Donen
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:43m:15s
Release Date: 2007-10-02
DVD ReviewClass, sophistication, and an impeccable sense of style define both Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, so their pairing in Stanley Donen's Funny Face, a frothy musical confection set in the realm of Parisian haute couture, seems perfectly natural. So what if Hepburn's limited terpsichorean talent keeps her from rivaling Rogers, Hayworth, or Charisse—she's an absolute vision in her elegant Givenchy wardrobe, and her luminous presence makes us forgive any clunky steps or sour notes. As always, Audrey is adorable, and her May-December chemistry with Astaire is as relaxed and easy as their understated dance duets. Though a trite story prevents it from joining the ranks of the musical elite, Funny Face remains a fan favorite 50 years after its initial release, and its creative presentation and stunning look make it one of the genre's most visually arresting works.
Donen's film borrows its title and several of its tunes from an old Gershwin show that was a big Broadway hit for Astaire and his sister Adele back in 1927. But the similarities end there. This incarnation (based on the story Wedding Bells by screenwriter Leonard Gershe) chronicles the My Fair Lady-like transformation of Jo Stockton (Hepburn), a plain-Jane intellectual whose quiet life as a Greenwich Village bookseller is upended when a highfalutin fashion magazine invades her hole-in-the-wall store for an impromptu photo shoot. Craving a more substantive model than the vacuous beauties with whom he usually works, acclaimed photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) convinces his skeptical, flamboyant editor, Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), that the fresh, unassuming Jo would sublimely complement a hot French designer's new line. Jo, however, cares more about philosophy than fashion, but soon realizes a Parisian junket would enable her to track down and meet her idol, the famous "empatheticalist," Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair).
So off go Jo, Dick, and Maggie to Paris, where the fledgling model spreads her wings, indulges her ideology, and learns about love, heartbreak, and the vagaries of French men amid an array of time-honored Gershwin melodies (and three sparkling new songs by Gershe and Roger Edens that exude joie de vivre). S'Wonderful, a rousing Clap Yo' Hands (performed by Thompson and Astaire in beatnik garb), He Loves and She Loves, and Hepburn's winsome solo of How Long Has This Been Going On? nicely augment the skimpy, meandering plot.
The film's vibrant personalities, however, bulldoze any script weaknesses. Thompson, in one of only a handful of on-screen appearances, leads the charge, and the supremely talented performer, vocal arranger, and author—who wrote the beloved children's classic, Eloise—nearly pulls the rug out from under her legendary co-stars. Her boundless energy, dry wit, and infectious enthusiasm punch up every scene and number in which she appears, and makes her blunt, boisterous character—a kooky forerunner to The Devil Wears Prada's Miranda Priestley—irresistible.
Thompson and Hepburn are so delightful, it's easy to overlook Astaire, who seems strangely content to back off and give the ladies the spotlight. His trademark charm and elegance still shine through, and he's touchingly tender with Audrey, but his dances lack the energy and invention audiences expect. Though Hepburn's inexperience may account for some of the simplicity, even Astaire's big solo turn, built around a tired matador theme, never approaches the dancer's elevated standard. Astaire's influence pervades Funny Face, but Hepburn and Thompson drive the film.
As does Donen's trés chic direction. Enhanced by the creative influences of photographer extraordinaire Richard Avedon (a consultant on the film and the man upon whom Astaire's character is loosely based), Donen's colorful, innovative visuals lend this age-old musical a contemporary flair that's as timeless as Hepburn's look. In addition, an intoxicating Parisian feel permeates the picture, thanks to extensive location shooting and the knockout number Bonjour, Paris!, in which Donen employs aerial shots and split-screen technology to produce the ultimate love letter to the City of Light.
The director also worships at the feet of his ravishing leading lady. Arguably, Hepburn has never been more beautifully photographed, and in the fashion sequences, she's nothing short of breathtaking. One image, of course, stands above the rest. With the Louvre's iconic Winged Victory as a backdrop, Hepburn—arms stretched to the heavens, swathed in a bright red Givenchy gown with a billowy shawl, and a dazzling smile across her lips—descends a flight of stairs and chants to a bedazzled and flustered Astaire, "Take the picture! Take the picture!" That's the essence of Funny Face, and thankfully, even after a half century, that glorious vision hasn't faded.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: C'est magnifique! is the best way to describe Paramount's luscious Funny Face transfer, which is so clean, crisp, and vibrant, it rivals even Warner's best ultra-resolution efforts. Clarity is flat-out superb, with well-defined lines, minimal grain, and perfectly pitched contrast lending dimension and detail to every scene, while the beautifully saturated colors enhance both Hepburn's gowns and the glorious Parisian cityscape. Blacks are rich and deep, fleshtones look natural, and nary a speck, blotch, or scratch sully the pristine print. Paramount continues to crank out top-flight transfers, and this anniversary edition of Funny Face gives videophiles plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
|Mono||English, Spanish, French, Portuguese||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track produces solid fidelity, and is completely devoid of any annoying pops, crackles, or hiss. Separation is hard to discern, but dialogue is always clear and comprehendible, and the musical numbers sound robust and dynamic.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
- Photo gallery
Parisian Dreams runs seven-and-a-half minutes and focuses on the transformative powers of the French capitol. Historian Drew Casper analyzes the film's Cinderella story, and how the influences of Stanley Donen, Richard Avedon, and Paris itself turn a standard musical into something very special.
Recycled from the previous DVD edition of Funny Face, Paramount in the '50s salutes some of the studio's notable pictures from that decade, including Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun, Come Back, Little Sheba, The Greatest Show on Earth, Stalag 17, Shane, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, White Christmas, The Country Girl, To Catch a Thief, The Ten Commandments, and, of course, Funny Face. Clips abound in this 10-minute retrospective that classic movie hounds will lap up.
The film's original theatrical trailer and an extensive photo gallery, containing more than 50 behind-the-scenes shots, publicity portraits, scene stills, and poster art—many in full color—round out the disc extras.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsFunny Face may not be a full-fledged musical classic, but it never fails to captivate and delight. The talented stars, creative direction, and Parisian setting transform a pedestrian premise into a light and airy diversion, while the lilting Gershwin score is easy on the ears. Topping it all off, Paramount's scrumptious remastered transfer and fine spate of extras make this 50th anniversary edition an essential keepsake for fans of Fred, Audrey, and Golden Age musicals. Highly recommended.
David Krauss 2007-10-09