|Saw  Basic Sanitation: The Movie (2007, Jorge Furdato), again in the Premiere Brazil series. A small town do-gooder wants to build a new cesspool to clean up the local creek; there’s no money left for sanitation projects in the regional budget, but there is a small grant available for a video (which has to be “fiction”), which a helpful functionary in the local government is willing to divert, so long as the town produces a short, cheap 10-minute movie (about the “Swamp Monster”) as well. The characters’ naïve attempts to do this (at first, they’re not sure what counts as “fiction,” and are unclear on the notion of editing as well; there are also some funny jabs at product placement) are the source of much of the film’s humor – the territory, and the implicit valorization of non-professional artistic production, is similar to Be Kind Rewind. Of course, the covering project of representation ends up overtaking the “real” one, which never gets completed, and what’s disappointing about the film is just that this develops in somewhat predictable ways – the local beauty goes diva, a wedding-video editor from a nearby larger town sees the piece as an auteurist vehicle, the climactic showing to the townsfolk is a “small triumph.” There are a number of more than clever moments – as when the self-congratulatory construction-project sign the mayor puts up b the creek gets repurposed as a homely bridge – but my sense was that the filmmakers didn’t quite find a third act that would balance the (very winning) lightness of tone with the micropolitics and reflexivity. [“Self-reflexivity” is a redundancy.] Which is too bad, as I gather all these are long-standing concerns of Furtado’s, whose short “Ilha dos Flores” was apparently an anti-capitalist faux-documentary on garbage collection. Worth seeing if it comes around nonetheless. |
Saw  Calamity Jane (1953, David Butler). Much better-crafted than I tend to expect from a non-MGM original musical (i.e., not a stage adaptation), esp. by the ‘50s, and esp. esp. given that it came about, I believe, largely out of Doris Day’s disappointment at not landing Annie Get Your Gun after Judy Garland had to drop out. But, against the odds, it’s more satisfying than the overstuffed, overloud Betty Hutton version of AGGG that eventually appeared, and in places rivals The Harvey Girls. One realizes only after the fact that, although it’s typically bright and colorful for its time, this isn’t an especially “spectacular” musical, as things go – there are no huge ensemble numbers, the action is divided among relatively few set-ups, and Day’s big ballad (the shimmering “Secret Love,” a megahit record) is staged as a simple wander through the brush. It’s strengths are Day’s performance, remarkably physically confident, and the songs, by journeymen Sammy Fain and Paul Frances Webster. “Deadwood Stage” (which, as the first single Robert Christgau ever owned, I’ve mentioned here before) and “Windy City” feel fresh and inventive despite being in standard, extremely narrow subgenres (the first is, at bottom, a train song; the second is clearly inspired by “Kansas City” from Oklahoma!), and two largely unsung performers (Dick Wesson, Allyn McLerie*) receive a convincing vaude-period numbers apiece (“Hive Full of Honey,” “Keep it Under Your Hat”) Only the Calamity Jane/Wild Bill Hicock duet “I Can Do Without You” is forced – too obviously designed to fill the same spot as “Anything You Can Do” in AGGG.
Oh, and there’s a good deal of drag, in both directions, on the way to the (incomplete) feminization of “Calam.”
*Bree is kind of incredible: She i.d.’d this actress as a dancer with one line in Words and Music, for which IMDB lists her as “uncredited.”
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- non-review notes
- Enjoyed this streaming 3-song "single"  by Bal...
- Saw  Os Desafinados [Out of Tune] (2006, Walte...
- The format I've been attempting here for the last ...
- 24. Stars Like Fleas, The Ken Burns Effect
- 22-23. American Music Club, The Golden Age, Mark E...
- Cost of replacement aside: things I'm least happy ...
- 21. The Paragons, My Best Girl Wears My Crown
- 20. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
- p. 123, you're it