♫ “I love your funny face / Your sunny, funny face…” ♫
Last Sunday, Fred Astaire’s melodic voice was playing on a loop in my head as I returned to The Cinefamily for one last matinee of the summer. Classes would be resuming the following day for me, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see their screening of Funny Face (1957)—one of my favorite films. I don’t even care how cheesy it can be, I will always love it. The film starts off their newly-themed series, “Paris Belongs to Us”—featuring classic movie musicals that take place in the effervescent city of Paris.
Upon arriving in smothering L.A. traffic (on a SUNDAY, for goodness’ sake), I bought a ticket and scurried inside, choosing a spot towards the back again. While letting my eyes readjust to the stark dim setting, my new friend (and fellow frequent movie-going buddy) arrived shortly afterwards. There was just enough time for a brief chat before a hush fell over the theater…
Promptly, two hosts introduced the film, talking a little bit about the actors (particularly Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn) and their parts, as well as renowned photographer Richard Avedon’s visual consultation for the film. They went on to acknowledge that while the setting does start off in New York City, it gradually transitions to Paris, which is why they chose to screen this one first—as a way to ease into the series. It wasn’t long before the opening credits started to fade in. I just remember sitting there, thinking, Why don’t I remember any part of this layout? I was seriously debating in my head if there was another version of the opening credits, but things slowly started to seep into memory. Somewhat. Funnily enough, I recall the rest of the film very well.
Besides it starring a couple of my all-time favorites, what’s particularly drawn me into Funny Face are its aesthetics: a definite visual feast of mise-en-scène. I love the coordination of pink found at the beginning, the old Greenwich Village bookshop exterior/interior, the red tint that fills the darkroom, and the many dreamlike portrayals of Paris—a city that attracts many a creative and romantic mind like a moth to a flame.
I’m also tickled pink over Audrey’s portrayal of Jo Stockton. Maybe it’s because I relate a lot to her introverted and bookish character, or merely wish that I could emulate more of her wit and charm—and gosh dangit if I don’t want to help run an independent bookshop at some point in my life. We also get to hear her actual singing voice (one that I adore so much), which brings me right along to the film’s musical soundtrack. When I first watched it about 1.5 years ago, I couldn’t stop listening to the album for days—maybe weeks—afterwards. It’s so GOOD (it is Gershwin, after all), and I’ll never grow tired of it.
And then there’s the dancing. You have the light and lyrical style of ballet that Audrey Hepburn learned as a young girl, paired with the effortless and polished elegance of Fred Astaire. The film has some very memorable moments of dance that transcend beyond time, especially Audrey’s jazzy and expressionistic dance in a smoky Parisian cavern club. I must also note that the scene where Fred dances under the balcony garnered a moment of suspended and mesmerized silence from the audience (myself included), followed by a burst of applause. It’s little moments like these that never fail to leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.