Sunday, January 09, 2005

Reviews: Frida and Seven Brides

We recently borrowed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Frida from some friends. While completely different movies I don't have enough on either of them for full reviews so I'm bunching them up in the same post.


Seven
Brides for Seven Brothers is a pretty by the books MGM musical. It is based on a book entitled The Sobbin' Women which is in turn based on a Roman story titled The Rape of the Sabine Women. Which, like the title implies is about the kidnapping and rape of several young women who eventually come to 'love' their captors. How someone decided to make a musical out of this one wonders.

The movie is very sexist. The oldest brother, Adam, sets out at the beginning of the movie to find a wife. He doesn't do this because he is lonesome, or loveless, or in need of company. No, he seeks a wife because he lives in the mountains with six brothers and they need someone to cook for them and clean up after them. Even his method of finding a wife is pretty awful. He comes to town on to shop for various goods and reckons to add a wife to that goods list. The remainder of the story focuses on the wife he finds, named Millie, and how she manages to turn the brothers into refined gentlemen. The original story figures in with a kidnapping plot designed to win the hearts of potential brides for the remaining single brothers.

Sexist plot aside Seven Brides really does sparkle as a gem in the musical hat of MGM. This can be mainly attributed to some fine songs by Johnny Mercer (including the hillbilly charm of "Bless Your Beautiful Hide") and some incredible choreography by Michael Kid. The 'Barn Raising' scene is worth the price of the ticket alone. Add to that the subtle beauty of 'Lonesome Polecat' and you have a winner.

I have personal memories of this film being watched in a dormitory lobby in college. Some bubbly friends of mine insisted that we had to watch it immediately after finding I had never seen it. They proceeded to quote most of the lines, sing every song and practically dance along with every scene. They did so with such energy that I was swept along as well, hardly paying attention to the jokes or the plot. Upon viewing it again I couldn't help remember that enthusiasm, but this time I was unable to miss the bothersome plot. In the end one must realize the time and place this movie came from without overlooking what is a pretty disturbing bit of plotting. The songs and the movements will most assuredly win most of the skeptics over though.

When Frida was released into theatres I had absolutely no desire to see it. I'm neither a fan of Salma Hayek, biopics in general, and biopics about artists especially. Add to that my zero knowledge about the artist Frida herself and the movies fate was sealed into never being seen by the likes of me. However, my general lack of new movies here in France and being able to borrow it from a friend for free helped me to reconsider watching it. When I realized it was directed by Julie Taymor who also directed a marvelously beautiful version of Titus then I was actually excited by it (almost).

Like Titus, Frida is an amazingly visual movie. Taymor, who is known mainly for her Broadway adaptation of the Lion King, has an artists eye for visual flair. She has found away to take something as static as a painting and made it alive. Throughout the film she recreates several of Frida's works and makes them a part of the action. It's impossible to explain on paper (or cycberspace) but what she creates is something pure magic.

I can't say how accurately Frida is portrayed in this movie. The picture we get is of a rather flawed woman who lived with a great deal of suffering. Her suffering comes in both physical ways (stemming from an accident early in life) and emotionally (from a cheating husband and her own mistakes). Yet it is this suffering that creates such remarkable art. Taymor manages to create an interesting and moving story within her excellent images.

Both Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina pull out excellent performances. I was especially impressed with Molina portraying the very flawed and yet sympathetic Diega. I had pretty much written this actor after playing Doc Oc in the highly overrated Spiderman 2. But here he shows a real sensitivity to his character. Don't be fooled by the billing of this film. The cover of the DVD would have you believe that Ed Norton, Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd and Geoffrey Rush all star in it. In fact, with the exception of Geoffrey Rush, all of them have more or less cameos in the picture. Rush is in the movie a bit more, but I wouldn't call even that a starring role.

Though neither Seven Brides and Frida are perfect films. Both of them win you over with sheer energy and charm.

10 comments:

Foolish Knight said...

Wow, "the highly overrated Spiderman 2"? What did I miss?

midnitcafe said...

Spidey 2 was ok. Not bad for a summer blockbuster. But everyone kept talking about how it was a superhero movie with heart. That it did a great job of showing the emotional turmoil of Peter Parker reamining Spiderman or getting the girl. And I just thought they did a poor job of it. I didn't feel any real emotionla attachment to the characters, I don't care about Peter Parkers feeling just get to the cool Spidey action.

Foolish Knight said...

Understood.

Helen said...

Okay... got to know... who are the bubbly guilty parties?! VERY curious now!!

PS- Thoughts on Seven Brides at FUDT?? It was discussed in the past. My concern is the number of guys... oy vey, you know that story!!

midnitcafe said...

Bubbly friends were Melanie Compton, Rachel, um what's her name? Melanies red headed friend and....someone else who was also a Compton friend. Man how the memory goes.

I wouldn't think there would be any trouble with Seven Brides at FUDT. The musical plays so lightheartedly and good natured that the whole kidnapping business isn't so bothersome.

Helen said...

Rachel Priola? And I can't think of a red head other than Trudy used-to-be-Payne... Ditto on the memory thing?!! And the "more easily stomached" thoughts on musicals...

midnitcafe said...

Nope, not Priola or Trudy Payne. Honey Jean was the non red head, and I still can't remember the last name of Rachael.

Helen said...

AH-HA!!... yeah, I don't think I know either of them... Oh well, I have a real good idea of it all though!!

bigsip said...

Hey Brew! I actually owned the movie Frida for a while. I thought it was pretty good. Perhaps over-the-top with some of the sex scenes. But, I can see where they would feel it necessary to show all that with her background. I don't care for the art produced by the Mexican muralists like Khalo and Diego. I find it colorful, but flat. Very cartoonish. She used symbolism fairly well, but I thinkj she was almost too blatant with it. I do agree that Titus was an awesome film. Frida left me empty though. I didn't feel edified, inspired, or modified by it. Overall, I thought it was ok.

midnitcafe said...

Thanks Sip! Friday is an astoundingly visual picture. But yeah I can see how you would't be inspired by it.