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(50th Anniversary Edition)

FUNNY FACE ($15) is an utter delight of cinematic musicals and amongst my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. Lighter than air, the script is wonderfully amusing soufflé that dovetails into the classic songs of George and Ira Gershwin, which in themselves are pure ambrosia. Fred Astaire brings his usual touch of class to the production, not to mention his unequaled dancing talents. Perhaps the thing I like best about FUNNY FACE is the fact that Hepburn gets to do her own singing in the film. Although not a great voice, Hepburn brings the emotional range of an actress to the lyrics, which gives them a different dynamic than if the songs were dubbed by someone else. Unlike MY FAIR LADY, the songs have a more organic quality that makes them a fully realized part of her character. In addition to its obvious charms of having Hepburn as its leading lady and the legendary Fred Astaire as its leading man, FUNNY FACE is also something of a stylized and experimental motion picture that emulates the look of a fifties era fashion magazine- one photographed by Richard Avedon. Of course, Stanley Donen’s direction, the Paris locations and the Givenchy fashions all serve to make FUNNY FACE a truly unforgettable classic.

The plot of FUNNY FACE pokes fun at the world of high fashion, through a fictional magazine called Quality. Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is the magazine's editor who feels that women are out in the world standing naked- just waiting for her to tell them what to wear. In an effort to equate high fashion with a higher intellect, Maggie moves a photo shoot to a musty bookstore in Greenwich Village. It is in the bookstore that fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) meets a somewhat mousy clerk named Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Dick recognizes something special in Jo’s atypical features and he feels that she would be the ideal embodiment of the "Quality Woman" that the magazine is seeking to promote. Although Jo thinks that high fashion is beneath her intellectual and philosophical dignity, the offer of a free trip to Paris convinces her that the ends justify the means. In Paris, Jo is transformed into the "Quality Woman" whose funny face becomes one of exquisite beauty, and while modeling an entire collection of fashions designed especially for her, Jo finds that the clothes end up taking a backseat to romance.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made FUNNY FACE available on DVD in a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. This time around Paramount has gotten the presentation right. FUNNY FACE is now a revelation of cinematic beauty and style, not to mention the sequences designed to resemble Richard Avedon’s work now take on life of their own, instead of looking merely interesting or appearing somewhat awful, especially the highly filtered moments. The transfer generally offers a crisp and nicely defined image, except for the purposely-diffuse moments, which appear especially soft. Colors are absolutely terrific, bright vibrant and always giving one a reasonably accurate representation of an original IB Technicolor print. Blacks are accurate, as are the whites. Contrast and grayscale are just fine for a fifties era VistaVision film printed in Technicolor. The film elements used for the transfer appear wonderfully clean, and display very little grain. Digital compression artifacts rarely make their presence known.

FUNNY FACE has been re-released on DVD with an upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. Spreading the musical numbers throughout the soundstage is what this mix does best. Despite the frequency limitations of these half-century-old recordings, the musical numbers sound remarkably pleasant. Aside from the musical numbers- everything else is pretty much dialogue, which comes through the center channel cleanly and with full intelligibility. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese monaural tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of new extras. The Fashion Designer And His Muse looks at the relationship between Audrey Hepburn and designer Givenchy. Parisian Dreams focuses on the film’s Paris location. Returning from the previous DVD release are Paramount In The Fifties featurette, as well as a Theatrical Trailer and a Photo Gallery.

FUNNY FACE is a s’wonderful, s’marvelous movie musical from Hollywood's golden age. This time around, Paramount delivers a presentation worthy of the film. Highly recommended.



Funny Face (50th Anniversary Edition) (1957)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2007 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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