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There is something truly magical about FUNNY FACE ($30) that makes one feel lighter than air while watching it. This is probably why FUNNY FACE is one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. The script is wonderfully amusing and the classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin are pure ambrosia. Then again, there is the presence of Fred Astaire in the film; Astaire certainly adds a touch of class to any 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.

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 Jos 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 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 playback. The film element used for the transfer displays a number of flaws that would seem to indicate that FUNNY FACE needs some restoration work, or that the particular film element was improperly manufactured. There are tiny blue dots that appear in exactly the same place throughout the presentation. Sometimes the dots are noticeable and sometimes they are easily dismissed. Other minor imperfections also exist in the film element, but none of these are too bothersome. The transfer itself is usually quite crisp and nicely defined. Some of the film's cinematography is designed to resemble the work of fashion photographer Richard Avedon, and these moments sometimes display a fuzzy, filtered look. While the colors are generally vibrant and give one a good indication what an IB Technicolor print might have looked like, some fading is evident at various times during the presentation. However, the colors never appear washed out. Neither chromatic distortion nor smearing ever becomes a problem on this DVD. Blacks are accurately rendered, plus the picture provides nice contrast and depth. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts on this cleanly authored dual layer DVD.

Although presented in monaural in 1957, FUNNY FACE has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. The strength of the new mix lies in its ability to spread the musical numbers through all of the discrete channels without coming across as horribly artificial. Actually, the musical numbers sound remarkably pleasant in 5.1, despite the expected frequency limitations of the original recordings. Other than the musical numbers, the rest of the audio is presented in monaural. Dialogue reproduction is clean and always intelligible. A restored monaural track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a smattering of extras. The Paramount In The Fifties featurette, which has shown up on other discs is present here, as well as a theatrical trailer and a still file with production photos.

FUNNY FACE is a wonderful confection from Hollywood's golden age that film buffs are most likely going to want to own. The presentation is very nice, but it isn't perfect, so you may want to look before you buy.


Funny Face


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 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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