A Brief Rumination on the Modern Cinema and the Demise of Classical Dance in the Movie Musical

IS THIS ANY WAY TO SHOOT A DANCE SEQUENCE?: As if Francis Coppola's offense in wasting a film about the fabled Harlem nightclub The Cotton Club wasn't egregious enough by reducing an important story in black American cultural history by concentrating on creating a precarious fiction of a spoiled dandy white trumpet player performing at the all-black club, simply to gratify the ego of his famed (a dubious claim at best) leading man, the director manages to insult the talents of his dancers, including the legendary Charles 'Honi' Coles with his unfathomably inept framing of the dance sequences. Why is the simplest of visual fundamentals lost on the "New Hollywood" generation of the 1970's?

IS THIS ANY WAY TO SHOOT A DANCE SEQUENCE?: As if Francis Coppola’s offense in wasting a film about the fabled Harlem nightclub The Cotton Club wasn’t egregious enough by reducing an important story in black American cultural history by concentrating on creating a precarious fiction of a spoiled dandy white trumpet player performing at the all-black club, simply to gratify the ego of his famed (a dubious claim at best) leading man, the director manages to insult the talents of his dancers, including the legendary Charles ‘Honi’ Coles with his unfathomably inept framing of the dance sequences. Why is the simplest of visual fundamentals lost on the “New Hollywood” generation of the 1970’s?

     At what point in film history did the movement of dancers in a musical film become an impediment to the director’s visual leanings?

      In the classical Hollywood studio era musical, the frame is carefully composed to elicit a full view of the entire dancer’s body; no matter the contextual limitations of “Golden” era Hollywood, there was a mindset of practicality and efficiency in the fundamentals of assembly line film making, and in the case of the subject at hand, the applicable guiding principle was in ensuring that the expense and energies expended on producing a musical number would find  realization fully on display onscreen. The dancer’s body was logically regarded as a complete instrument of musical interpretation, and as such, it naturally followed that during the preparation of a dance sequence, the performers and choreographer worked in synchronous harmony with the director and cinematographer in planning to properly shoot the performance properly recorded to ensure the time, energies, talent and expense (keeping in mind that the movies were and are a business, the studio moguls were adamant that the monies expended be reflected on the screen) be seen clearly and effectively. The contemporary propensity toward a resistance to exhibiting the dancer’s entire body in motion with a fluid camera unimpeded by jarring edits. without aesthetic justification, nullifies the intent of the choreographic efforts. The deliberate fracturing of the moving image, in this context, results in similar damage of perspective as a dance sequence designed for a wider spatial view (i.e., “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” or “It’s Always Fair Weather”) that faces a disruptive alteration through the use of “pan-and-scan” editing.

To read the entire post, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/notes-on-the-critical-establishment/

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in black cinema, Boston, cinema, Culture, dance, Film, Film Reviews, movie reviews, Movies, music, Musicals, theater. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Brief Rumination on the Modern Cinema and the Demise of Classical Dance in the Movie Musical

  1. Teepee12 says:

    Fred Astaire set the standard for shooting dance sequences. He moved, the camera stayed put, pretty much. Moreorver, you shot the dancer. To just shoot feet is proof that the director and/or cinematographer hasn’t a clue what dance is about. Bah.Humbug!

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