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USA 1957
Directed by
Stanley Donen
103 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Funny Face

Stanley Donen’s film displays the best and worst of 1950s Americana. The worst is, ideologically speaking, the hopelessly dated libretto by Leonard Gershe that sets out to demonstrate that a life of ideas is a sordid choice compared the wonders of being a fashion model and marriage to an All-American boy (well, grandfather). The best is the boldly colourful artifice of the visual design and image of 50s chic it captures as well as the songs by George and Ira Gershwin including "How Long Has This Been Going On," "He Loves and She Loves," and "Let's Kiss and Make Up" (additional songs were by the film’sproducer, Roger Edens).

Audrey Hepburn plays the bookish Jo Stockton who is swept off her feet literally when the pushy editor of the foremost women's fashion magazine, Quality, Maggie Prescot (singer-composer-arranger Kay Thompson in her first major film role), and her photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire, (leading fashion photographer Richard Avedon was credited as “visual consultant) invade the  Greenwich Village second-hand bookshop where she is working to do a fashion shoot. Avery sees great potential in her and although Jo is disdainful of the fashion industry when she finds out it means a trip to Paris where Professor Flostre (Michel Auclaire) teaches his philosophy of "empatheticalism" (a none too sly dig at Sartre and existentialism) she agrees to model for them.

So it’s off to Paris to indulge in a period-typical idea of Left Bank exoticism and even less convincingly the obligatory romance between the 28 year old Hepburn and the 57 year old Astaire (whose wife had recently died). Hepburn shows herself to be quite an adept singer and dancer whilst despite the years, Astaire is Astaire, even down the spats and straw boater, his best number being a solo piece in which he emulates a bullfighter beneath Hepburn’s window.  




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