This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This would be my second viewing of Singin' in the Rain and I still adore it to bits.
It's a film about the dawn of talking pictures, through the perspective of film star Gary Lockwood. His success comes from his work with Lina Lamont in silent pictures. Lockwood's confidence and self-esteem is shot when he stumbles upon the hopeful Kathy Selden; explaining to him that his work is only "dumb show" as true acting comes from the performances of stage actors and actresses. The dialogue between Lockwood and Selden in this scene was quite powerful, which I never really picked up on the first time as I was too preoccupied with the comedic tone during this exchange. It really connects with the speech that Lockwood makes during his first appearance about integrity. Though he is successful in the business, he never truly felt satisfied with himself as his past journey to the business has been rough, taking jobs that contained little artistic merit; and now that a woman whom he has never met before tells him that his current profession is still considered hollow, hurting his ego. To add on to that, the fact that sound pictures are the new and upcoming trend, he feels like he would be phased out of the business and loses everything.
I was impressed with the film's ability to establish multiple problems, found in both the characters and the story, and remained focused until the very end of the film. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, the film's directors, were able inject a fair amount of depth without losing that comedic light tone that made the film feel accessible. One can simply just sit and watch this for its songs and its characters without giving it a deeper thought, but if one does search for it, it would still come out just as gratifying.
The film's middle passages maintain its strength through the deep satirical exploration of the film business during the transition of silent to sound films. We see the effect the transition has had on the studios; feeling pressured that in order to stay ahead and remain monumental, excuse the pun. This sudden ripple have alerted multiple ongoing productions, including Lockwood and Lamont's, to be scrapped and changed in order to appeal to the mass market. This then posed multiple problems for the production due to their lead actress not possessing an ideal and appealing voice and the difficulties of using microphones to capture the voices of the actors. It is hard for silent actors to simply move onto a new wave of filmmaking, especially employing sound, as before when films were projected silently, they were able to simply focus on their facial and bodily expression; which is why their performances are now considered highly exaggerated. Watching these issues plague the production of Dueling Cavalier, the title of their picture, was a hoot. Emphasising these moments allows the audience to truly feel sorry for Lockwood; one can truly feel his little sense of control of his surroundings as this new technology would leave him eradicated just when he is still at the prime of his career. During their preview screening of the film, it convinced Lockwood that it definitely is the end for him and once it gets a wide release, he would be in the dumps.
It was when the idea came to him, with the help of Kathy Selden and his best friend Cosmo Brown that he could turn the Dueling Cavalier into a musical picture, suddenly gaining confidence as singing and dancing is in his blood. Along with this gain of confidence, is an increase in feelings of love towards Kathy which led to an unforgettable musical number entitled "Singin' in the Rain". This sequence was beautiful, conveying that even in the worst of conditions he was still able to find joy in it. The scene is choreographed wonderfully featuring iconic and influential moments that other films, especially musicals, just couldn't beat. The scene was also supported by an enthusiastic and powerful performance by Gene Kelly, who brings life into every step, every smile, and every note that came out of him. One would be lying if they didn't say his performance during this captivated you, making you want to go outside in the rain and do the exact same thing because I certainly do! There isn't a more glorious feeling than to watch Kelly dance and sing Singin' in the Rain.
The film's third act features two key components, the Broadway Melody sequence and the climax at the premiere of The Dancing Cavalier. The Broadway Melody sequence is essentially a ballet, similar to what was presented on An American in Paris but executed much better. It features a story that is very similar to Lockwood's life but handled in a way that feels art-house. This sequence is certainly open for interpretation as at no point during afterwards does the film explain what that was all about and I think having that sense of ambiguity makes one want to come back to the film and try to find their own personal feeling/interpretation towards it. I am also unsure whether this sequence is connected in any way to the 1929 musical of the same name, so if there were references during this sequence, I wasn't able to pick it up. I honestly did feel a sense of distance towards this sequence during my initial viewing as I never understood its point and it did change the film's tone, jarring me a little in the process, but after watching An American In Paris and seeing this film again, made me appreciate it a little more, mind you it isn't as much as I would have hoped but at least now I find some sort of value in it. After this sequence, we are treated to a climax that was handled so well, an atmosphere of comedy and romance that I feel is just as effective as other films with powerful endings like Casablanca and City Lights.
As I went through the entire film the second time, I was able to see just how clever the film actually is. The film shows a lot confidence at being meta and self-referential. There was multiple times where the actors themselves look straight to the camera, going in and out of the fourth wall. Another moment in the film that felt like that was the "You Were Meant For Me" sequence where it starts off by having the audience feel like they are watching Lockwood and Kathy from a distant point of view, we are very aware that they are pretending like actors and singing to each other but as the song progresses the camera goes closer and closer towards the characters, hiding the technical aspects of making the scene and eventually immersing us in the process.
The film's musical sequences are fantastic and memorable, rivalling the best songs from the best musical films. The bulk of the film's tracks are upbeat and enthusiastic while the ones that aren't are swan-like and romantic. The great thing about Singin’ in the Rain’s musical sequences is more due to their choreography, which was handled by Gene Kelly. The dancing in this film was breathtakingly enthusiastic, aside from the slow romantic moments of course, like take a look at sequences like "Good Morning", "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Singin' in the Rain", they truly made use of the space of the set and ensures that no point of the sequence does the dancing break its flow. Whenever I saw Gene Kelly does any sort of tap dancing, I always seem to end up on the internet looking at lessons for tap dancing. It was because of him that I started to find the value in this type of dancing. Though Singin' In The Rain is a spotlight for Kelly, it also featured strong dancing performances from Donald O'Connor who brings this light and smooth style to his tap that, at times, rival Kelly in his finest moments. The Sound of Music is my all-time favourite musical, but after seeing this film twice, I am convinced that this is the best musical of all time; the fact that this film wasn't even nominated for Best Picture is baffling.
Singin' in the Rain is a classic; it is a faultless masterpiece that trumps any Old Hollywood film. At the moment it may not be at the same level as my most favourite films but I have a feeling it would rank up there eventually, as I come back to this time and time again.