October 2018 Capsules

A Star Is Born
Yes, “The Man That Got Away” might be the greatest musical number ever committed to film, but one sequence seems to capture the spirit of this extravagant, devastating masterpiece even better: “Born in a Trunk.” (Complicating this of course is the fact that “Born in a Trunk” was filmed after Cukor had finished his involvement with the film, though this only strengthens its connections to the machinations of Hollywood.) The medley of songs from numerous genres indulges in all the abstraction and expressionism possible in the American film industry, lunging through vividly contrasting set after set, with the only connective tissue being Garland’s voice and physicality. It is blatantly, gloriously unclear whether this is some part of Vicki Lester’s star-making role or a mental projection of her thinking on her past life through said role – notably, the Academy ratio of the film-within-the-film expands to CinemaScope in the span of a cut. Comparisons to Gene Kelly’s repeated intonations of “dignity, always dignity” or even “Broadway Melody” from Singin’ in the Rain are there, of course, but the lines between role, performer-in-a-role, and performer are even further blurred. And throughout, it is so clear that Vicki Lester is the real deal, that she must shine and diminish all around her. This is the film in less than 15 minutes; what makes it what is is the two and a half hours left: not one second is anything less than vital.

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