The Screening Room
funny face
Fashion mavens, rejoice! Before her likeness was used in a recent television commercial, Audrey Hepburn danced in a Paris nightclub in Stanley Donen's 1957 classic, "Funny Face." The film is now available as part of Paramount's "Centennial Collection" DVD series.

"Funny Face" is a film that brings you back to a golden age of the Hollywood musical. I've never been a fan of musicals, with people suddenly breaking out in song. But when I see a good one, I enjoy it as much as any well made film. Very much in tune with Donen's own "Singin' In The Rain" (1952), this film is alive with dancing, exquisite cinematography, believable acting and songs from George & Ira Gershwin.

The film, seen with 21st Century eyes, is remarkably fresh. Young girls and women, who are into fashion magazines and so-called "fashionistas," will undoubtedly enjoy the chaos that takes place at the fictional "Quality Magazine." Television shows like "Ugly Betty" and "What Not To Wear" probably have borrowed some cues from this 1957 classic. Kay Thompson is the head of Quality and can dictate what's going to be in fashion. In the opening number, she says that pink is in. What follows is a Technicolor treat of a song number. Fred Astaire, who is Quality's top photographer (and no, he doesn't use a digital camera), and Thompson later come across Audrey Hepburn in a bookstore in Greenwich Village. Astaire, ever so subtly, falls for the plain pixie. He later convinces Thompson that Hepburn is Quality's next and hottest model. Eat your heart out, Tyra! The trio is off to Paris for their adventures in modeling.

Whereas 21st Century musicals have been overblown and hollow, like "Dreamgirls" and "Chicago," "Funny Face" is charming. Is it typical of Hollywood's musicals of the era? Yes. But almost everything about it is expertly handled. The song numbers aren't the most memorable, yet they are perfectly suited to the story. The one exception is "S'Wonderful," which is familiar to me because I have a Diana Krall CD where she sings it wonderfully. Donen's direction is solid and assured, while Ray June's cinematography is rich and colorful. One of my favorite sections in the film is the opening title sequence which features Richard Avedon's backgrounds.

Over the years, Audrey Hepburn has become one of those movie stars whose very image can be instantly identified. She's become a symbol of simple beauty and elegance. Many these days, I'm sure, see Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe or James Dean and see the face, the icon, rather than the actor. "Breakfast At Tiffany's" (1961) could technically be considered the film that made her an icon, though she had been in classic films before that. Hepburn was indeed a beauty, but she was also a very good actress. She didn't have a sultry voice, nor was she a great singer, yet she was believable and charming. Her acting range could seem limited. She played the simple and plain girl who blossomed into a beauty a few times in film, most notably "Sabrina" (1954), and "My Fair Lady" (1964). Watch her in Donen's mature and often sad "Two For The Road" (1967) and "Robin and Marian" (1976), you'll see an immensely talented actress.

Fred Astaire, of course, shines in this film. I can't (or won't unless I really have to) dance worth a lick, but I admire Astaire's talent. Like Gene Kelly, he could light up the screen with his fluid moves. He and Thompson have an excellent and oh-so-cool number towards the end of the film.

"Funny Face" is one of those old movies that's perfect for a rainy day. Pop some popcorn, chill some drinks and snuggle up with your sweatheart. This film is s'wonderful.            
Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
DVD Quick Glimpse



Colorful and very romantic musical from director Stanley Donen

Director: Stanley Donen  

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson  

Special features include featurettes, photo gallery and theatrical trailer

Not Rated

Picture: Very Good
Sound: Good

Some footage of Audrey Hepburn's dancing in "Funny Face" was used in a recent TV commercial

The color of this movie will make your eyes pop out... in a good way

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

January 13, 2009
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