Sunday, December 28, 2008

White Christmas at the BFI Southbank

The washed-out visuals and muffled soundtrack of the trailer at Cineworld does this film no favours. Although my partner made approving noises, I put this down to his fondness for the big-band era of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, two of the stars. So I wasn’t expecting much, having arrived at the BFI too late for a Mamoulian film, when I settled for ‘White Christmas’ instead.

The BFI studio is the smallest auditorium at the South Bank venue, with only four rows, but the screen seems enormous. The digitalised Vistavision looked freshly minted and the sound was great in what they call their ‘state-of-the-art’ auditorium.

Bing and Danny Kaye play showbiz entertainers, who help a retired General save his Vermont hotel by putting on a show, aided by two showgirls and a troupe of extras. Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the girls. The talents of the lead players and the period interest prevent the film from being overwhelmed by huge dollops of schmaltz.

I was still recovering from the tedium of Baz Lurhmann’s antipodean epic a few days back; White Christmas set a cracking pace in terms of plot development, and flashed by in a whirl of colour. For me it veered too much on the side of dance in the balance between cavorting and plot/dialogue, and younger audience members giggled at the clumsy segues between dialogue and songs. Strange, when you consider no-one baulked at ‘Mamma Mia’s sometimes irrelevant outbursts.

Screening until January 1st

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