Or in Base 2, 1001. We re-join Guido the blocked Italian director from 8½ , this time played by Daniel Day-Lewis. As in everything he ever did (he claims to be retired now) he is quite good in a role that requires some singing. This movie was based on a Broadway production starring Raul Julia. On Broadway, he was the only male character, except for four young boys who were Guido’s classmates. Him, and twenty-nine women.
To bring it out into the “real world” many changes had to be made, obviously. Well, I suppose it would have been possible for it to be all-female, but very hard. I don’t quarrel with Rob Marshall’s decision there. The only quibble I do have is that they cut a massive number of songs. I mean, eighteen of them! That’s a lot of songs. I wish more could have been retained. On the plus side, the musical’s original author, Maury Yeston, wrote three more numbers, including one of the best, “Cinema Italiano.” And he professed himself pleased with the movie.
Rob Marshall is best known for Chicago (Best Picture 2003) and Into the Woods. The book was by Michael Tolkin, screenwriter for Robert Altman’s masterpiece, The Player. The stage musical was directed by Tommy Tune, with book by Arthur Kopit. It won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has been revived many times, and been on tour almost perpetually.
The plot is changed here and there from the original story, most of all by the final shot, which is Guido being lifted on a camera crane, and calling out “Action!” Then cut to black. That’s not how 8½ ended, and I didn’t like it. It ought to have ended on a big production number, in my opinion. But that’s about all that I didn’t like about the film.
Marshall assembled a to-die-for cast: Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, and … wait for it … Sophia Loren, still looking ravishing at 83. Plastic surgery? Hell, I don’t care. She doesn’t have a large part, but according to the DVD extras all those big female stars were very intimidated to be playing with a living legend. I’ll bet they were.
All of them have singing and/or dancing numbers. Even Judi Dench, also 83, has a big number with a lot of showgirls, “Folies Bergères.” All of them are good, but two are real show-stoppers. The first is a solo, “A Call From the Vatican,” with Cruz doing what is probably the sexiest dance since Michelle Pfeiffer vamped on Jeff Bridges’ piano in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
But the best of all is “Cinema Italiano,” with Kate Hudson. I mean, wow! Who knew she could tear up the stage like that. Not me, let me tell you. She is a fabulous dancer, backed up by dozens of great female dancers. She really, really shines. I feel like racking up the DVD right now to watch it again. There are a lot of extras on the DVD, BTW. The best involves Hudson and the chorus rehearsing that number. Everyone rehearsed for months to get it all right. I hope it was worth the bleeding feet. I love dancers.