Thursday, July 31, 2008

Black + White Friday: Chicago

I took inspiration today from this weeks entry of "Best Pictures from the Outside In", a weekly series co-run by The Film Experience, Nick's Flick Picks and Goatdog. This week they discussed Calvacade and Chicago, which got me wondering what the latter would look like if it were actually filmed in the 1930s when it is set and if it were, ya know, black and white (that being the whole gist of this series). However, upon popping the disc into the player I realised I had made a terrible mistake. You see, I find it incredibly hard to just flick through Chicago to find screengrabs. No, I start by watching "All That Jazz" and then I must watch "When You're Good to Mama" and "Cell Block Tango" and then definitely "Roxie" and... well, needless the say, this entry took a bit longer to compile that it normally does.

Well I had to choose this image. Black and white is all about shadows and I love this one from the opening "All That Jazz" number.

Perhaps a bit risque for the 1930s, no? I love that Catherine Zeta-Jones is still smack bang in the centre, even though it's an ensemble musical sequence.

As they say, "she's the spittin' image" of an old MGM movie star, and I actually think Renee Zellweger looks better in black and white in this movie. It helps distract from her shiny skin and way-too-lithe frame. Alas, it is moments like this that make me lean on the side of "she gives a great performance!" than on the side of "she can't sing! etc".

Now it looks like some sort of surreal Lynchian experience. Which makes me think about what it would be like if David Lynch directed a full on out-and-out musical. We throws musical numbers into pretty much all of his films (think "Llorando" from Mulholland Drive, "In Dreams" from Blue Velvet, "The Locomotion" from INLAND EMPIRE, the many Julee Cruise moments from Twin Peaks, etc) so what if he took the next step and just made a musical. I think I'd officially die.

Is it just me or does Renee looks freakishly like Marilyn Monroe in this shot? I guess considering, at times, she's doing a bit of a Monroe act that it fits, however it is only this scene in the movie that I think the comparison actually works.

Yeah, from a purely visual point of view "Roxie" is my favourite musical number in the film. I love the visuals (obviously, I've taken three shots from it alone) and the setups and I think it's Zellweger's best work in the movie. Plus the song is pretty catchy to boot, no? This one shot feels like something out of a Lloyd Bacon (42nd Street, Footlight Parade) though and that's why I took it.

Wow, that red neon sort of looks crap, doesn't it? Nevertheless, I still really like the shot. Reminds me of the videoclip for Madonna's "Vogue".

If there's one scene in particular that definitely does not benefit from black and white it is "I Can't Do It Alone". All those deep reds and blues are what make the scene pop outside of Catherine Zeta-Jones' immaculate one woman show.

I chose this shot simply because there just hasn't been enough of Zeta-Jones and she looks so good here.

One of my biggest pet peeves with movies is when there's a performance scene like this one that is supposed to be happening in real life (on Broadway in this instance) and it is not based in reality. Like when character change costumes by moving out of frame (I'm looking at you Centre Stage) or they do things that may work for the movie, but they forget that there are supposedly people sitting in the audience watching it and they'd have no clue what the hell is going on (I'm looking at you Staying Alive). I do, however, thoroughly believe that this finale - even if it is oddly short, where's the rest? - would "thrill!" the audience watching it. I think they made the right decision to end the movie this way, and as an extra bonus for this series it looks great in black and white.


Yih said...

nice compilation -- though i kinda wish you chose a screenshot with john c. reilly singing mr. cellophane

Neel Mehta said...

I disagree. I think it's perfect that you DIDN'T include Mr. Cellophane. That's kind of the point to his whole character, isn't it?