The 1958 Joshua Logan film of “South Pacific” is a perfect demonstration of the value of the movie soundtrack album as a preferable experience over a film. In the former, there is much pleasure to be gained aurally without the distracting aesthetic visual offenses of the latter.
Curiously, the film asserts the technological advances of widescreen Todd-AO and six-track sound, while simultaneously becoming a throwback to the aesthetics of the silent film; certainly a bizarre model for a musical film. In the process of producing the film, the inconceivable decision was made that the songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein were insubstantial in evoking an emotional response from the audience and therefore needed the assistance of color tinting, a common practice in the days of silent pictures with their monochromatic photography, but a supremely absurd when used in coordination with full color photography. The resulting filtering effect not only obscures the spatial clarity that is one of the hallmarks of the Todd-AO process, it creates a murky, muddy visual density that distances the viewer from what the actors are emoting, in both song and dramatic performance, as the suffocating distraction of the thermal hues- making those particular sequences look as if they’d been filmed on the surface of the Sun -exacerbate the artificiality of a film that is contradictorily shot through great logistical effort on actual tropical locations. What God has created as natural South Seas splendor,let the optical engineers at 20th Century Fox transform into the best impression of watching a film through cataracts.
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