Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Should We Celebrate "The Sound of Music" Fifty Years Later?

Available on DVD

Should We Celebrate The Sound of Music Fifty Years Later?

(from Sag Harbor Express Online 3/14/15)


Following a Julie Andrews-Lady Gaga tribute at the Oscars, Twentieth-Century Fox is launching a year-long campaign to celebrateThe Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary.  A highlight will be the theatrical release of a restored version of the film on April 19 and 22.  Also, four new books and a themed Princess Cruise are scheduled.  But before any of that comes the home entertainment release this week.   Avid fans, many who rank it as their favorite movie, will undoubtedly be thrilled that the five-disc collector’s edition set has 13 hours of additional content, including a new documentary, The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg, on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD.  I think it’s a bit presumptuous that The Sound of Music is being promoted as if it were “America’s movie” and loved by us all, which is akin to reminding us New York Giants fans that the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s team.” I don’t buy it.  However, there is no denying that the movie’s popularity, particularly among youngsters who always come home long before their curfews, has escalated considerably and that watching it on television annually has become a family event the way it used to be with The Wizard of Oz.  And it is unsettling to me that this box-office blockbuster for the masses has developed a strong, addicted cult following. As in 1965, I think incomparable Andrews is wonderful and the lively first half of the movie is quite charming—though the title confuses me because I don’t think anyone says, “I love the sound of music” rather than just “I love music”—yet I’m still no more enthusiastic about it overall than I was when I wrote this brief critique for my 1986 book Guide for the Film Fanatic:
“One of the most popular films of all time—which is what it was calculated to be.  You’ll know you’re being manipulated at every turn, that you’re expected to feel a lump in your throat or laugh and cry on cue (when the music swells, when a child smiles, when a stern adult is kind), that you’re expected to be as undiscriminating as the audience who sits through the show ‘Up with People!’  But even if you become sick on the sugar, you’ll find it hard not to appreciate the talents of Julie Andrews, whose exuberance is infectious, whose voice is superb [which we tended to forget in future years when musicals stopped being made], who is as good as Streisand at acting  while singing a song.  It’s easy to see why she was the top female draw of the time.  In the role that reinforced her goody-goody virgin image, Andrews is a nun-in-training in Austria who becomes a Snow White governess to seven incorrigible, love-starved children.  If you thought Miss Frances of Ding Dong School was so nice to children, then you’ll adore Andrews.  She teaches these kids to play, sing, and have good manners (they don’t protest) and their strict widower father, Christopher Plummer, to feel love again—for the children and for her.  They become one happy family—the Trapp Family Singers—just in time for the serious part of the picture, when they must escape the Nazis by fleeing over the border.  The familiar Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are cheery and childish and catchy—you’ll feel like a fool humming them for the rest of the day.  Except when nun Peggy Wood sings “Climb Every Mountain” to Andrews, they are skillfully blended into the plot.  Film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Wise), Best Editing (William Reynolds), Best Scoring Adaptation (Irwin Kostal), and Best Sound.  From the stage musical by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse; Ernest Lehman wrote the shrewd script.  Also with: Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Anna Lee, Angela Cartwright.”

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