Friday, 14 August 2009

A Night at the Opera

1936 - Dir.: Sam Wood
Shown at The Feckenodeon on 25th September, 2004

The Marx Brothers phenomenon is a perfect illustration of the function of the Picture Palace in the great depression and immediately afterwards. Audiences flocked to escape the harshness of everyday life into the comfort of gilt and red plush for a glimpse of the high life - tempered with a bit of pure streetwise vaudeville. For such an audience the idea of the Brothers having a crack at the grandest of artforms must have worked on two levels. The most obvious is the pricking of the bubbles of pomposity and social climbing which so often surrounded opera. Less obvious is the appeal of the music itself. America was still a young country with millions of first and second generation immigrants who brought a genuine love of truly popular opera as part of their contribution to the culture of their new nation. The immigration sub plot must also have struck a chord. The usual Marx machine gun technique of rapid fire gags is employed but the big budget of this film allowed the boys to enjoy high production values and some of the musical numbers rival the best of Hollywood's "straight" musicals. Not a film made for sophisticates - so leave your sensitivities outside and wallow in the sheer daftness of it all...
"And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor."

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