Friday, May 11, 2012

Chat: Love Me Tonight

Natalie:  So, which is more "romantic": the whatever he was taking down the technical notes of the song in the cab or the street people singing it around a fire?
Tracy:  Hah! I vote for the gypsies. Really, any scene that doesn't feature Maurice Chevalier, who I find "romantic" so much as "creepy."
Natalie:  HA! Gypsies is a better word--I couldn't think of anything but "hobos." I'm with you on Chevalier. I don't dig him one bit.
Tracy:  And what was up with his "negging" the chick? Telling her how messed up she was and then she fell in love with him.
Natalie:  But it's so romantic to be told how terrible your clothes and hair are. Right? Especially by the crazy man who gets a stag to go into a random person's house during a hunt. Sigh. And was it me or was this the most boring rom com ever?
Tracy:  I KNOW. That bit with the stag was so bizarre! And it was completely boring. I liked the sexy sister, but she was barely in it.
Natalie:  The sexy sister was Myrna Loy who had a bigger career than either of the leading stars. I feel like I should have something more to say about this one but I don't. I was bored and I didn't even like the singing.
Tracy:  I know. "Isn't it Romantic" was disappointing. And what else annoyed me was the trend that has become omnipresent in romcoms now, where the woman has to humiliate herself at the end in order to get the dude. Why didn't she just go find him in Paris? Why ride the mutant horse?
Natalie:  Right--especially when apparently she went to Paris before because she was begging the Duke to give her money so she could return at the beginning. Sigh. I think, though, the humiliation may be part of the genre. Here, at least, the book sort of taught me something new (well, the book gave me a word to go look up so not so much "teaching"): “As with so many of this sadly underrated director’s finest films, the delightful things about this masterly variation on the romantic Ruritanian musical is the way Rouben Mamoulian manages to debunk, through an idiosyncratic combination of irreverent humor and technical innovation, the traditions of the very genre he is simultaneously helping to establish and expand." So this "Ruritanian musical" thing is, according to the super trusty wikipedia, first, a "Ruritanian romance" which is "a story set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe, such as the Ruritania that gave the genre its name. The popularity of the Graustark novels led to this type of story also being called Graustarkian Romances. Such stories are typically swashbuckling adventure novels, tales of high romance and intrigue, centered on the upper classes, aristocracy and royalty. The themes of honor, loyalty, and love predominate, and the books frequently feature the restoration of kings to their thrones."
Tracy:  Well that is interesting. Can we think of any better examples of that genre? Like Princess Diaries is the only thing that comes to mind.
Natalie:  Although . . . the racing the train on the horse and then standing in front of a train thing could be read as more of an act of bravery and sacrifice rather than humiliation. She's the one who brushed him off because of rank so she's the one who has to make amends. And, how many of us are going to stand in front of a train? If he'd been the one to race a train with a horse, it would have been brave. In terms of the genre . . . I'm not sure. Princess Diaries seems to work. Wikipedia says "Latveria, ruled by Doctor Doom in the Marvel Comics Universe" and The Adventures of Tin-Tin. And, in spoofs, the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and "Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, the main narrator has the delusion of being the incognito king of a "distant northern land" who romantically escaped a Soviet-backed revolution." So, it's not strictly a romance in the kissy way but rather in the traditional hero narrative way.
 Tracy:  Oooohhhh. I see. I always wanted to read Pale Fire but never did. And yeah--I guess it's just the act of the chasing reminded me of 27 Dresses and Must Love Dogs. But standing in front of a train is better than falling out of a canoe.
Natalie:  I haven't read Pale Fire either. I guess maybe Borat would also classify since he's heavily fictionalizing the country. Falling out of a canoe is lame. Standing in front of a train takes balls. She's using said balls to stand in front of a train for a lame reason and man though. I think the book wanted us to see this one because it loves the director and that it thinks "what is really impressive about Love Me Tonight is how music, dance, dialogue, performance, décor, lighting, camera work, editing, and special effects are all combined to create a cogent comic/dramatic whole in which each element serves narrative, characterization, and theme. The “Isn’t It Romantic?” sequence, for example . . . is impressive.” I don't see the point (how it's especially different than any other work of narrative), especially with the less than illuminating example. I say ditch it.
Tracy:  Um, special effects? Even for the time--Meliere (or whoever) was doing much better much earlier. And why does everybody go nuts over the "IIR?" sequence? Even if it is technologically impressive, it does absolutely nothing thematically. Just like Avatar. I second the ditching.
Natalie:  Yeah, it doesn't do anything at all that would have been remotely innovative for the time. And, it has the creepy. Just like Avatar.
Tracy:  Officially the Avatar of musical romcoms

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