Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire fall in love, in Paris, to songs by George and Ira Gershwin. That should sell Funny Face right there. Stanley Donen's delicious 1957 film is contrived, preposterous and sexually-incorrect but it's a wonderful ride, and arguably one of Astaire's best musicals. Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, a dowdy intellectual who works in a dank New York bookstore. After the shop is overrun by a photo shoot contrived by the editor of Quality magazine, fashion photog Dick Avery (Astaire, tailored after Richard Avedon, who worked as a consultant on the film) picks Jo as the new "Quality Girl," slated to be the fresh, new face of fashion. Although Jo despises the fashion industry and everything it stands for, she agrees so that she can get a free trip to Paris, where she plans to sit at the feet of her favorite philosopher, Dr. Emil Flostra, father of "empathicalism." Along with the magazine's directrix (Kay Thompson, doing a hilarious riff on long-time Vogue and Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland), Jo and Dick travel to Paris for a fashion shoot, where Jo is dressed up in some phenomenal Givenchy haute couture and turned into... well, Audrey Hepburn. The love story between the smug, older Astaire and the fervent young Hepburn is absurd, and the film reeks with gratuitous anti-intellectualism Jo's philosophy guru turns out to be a con man and a wolf, a fact which Jo refuses to see until she's practically date-raped. (Of course, Dick/Astaire's status as our lovable leading man isn't helped by the way he goes about dissuading Jo from her hero-worship: When she asks "Are you suggesting that Dr. Flostra's interest in me is anything but intellectual?" Dick replies, "He's about as interested in your intellect as I am.") Still, Funny Face showcases Hepburn beautifully, allowing her to sing without the aid of Marni Nixon's overdubbing, and she gets to dance. She and Astaire have some truly transcendent numbers together, hoofing to Gershwin tunes like "Funny Face," "He Loves and She Loves," and "S'Wonderful." Especially entertaining is a scene where the oh-so-urbane Astaire and Thompson don berets and bongos to infiltrate a beatnik gathering and end up impersonating a couple from Tallahassee. The resulting song-and-dance number, "Clap Yo' Hands," is an almost surreal mix of Southern gospel, Gershwin orchestration, interpretive dance, and Astaire-style tap. Watch Funny Face for the clothes, the dancing, the wonderful songs, and for the magnificent Miss Hepburn just leave your intellectual ego and gender sensitivity at the door, and you'll have a grand time. Paramount's DVD release offers a solid anamorphic transfer with audio in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix or a restored monaural track. A still gallery and the theatrical trailer are included, as well as a 10-minute featurette entitled Paramount in the '50s, a fluffy retrospective of the better films that Paramount produced during that era. Keep-case.
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