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Hollywood has made plenty of great films about men dressing up as women — Tootsie, Some Like It Hot — and even a couple of decent ones about women dressing up as men (Yentl?). But Victor/Victoria is really the only top-notch movie about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. Easily one of director Blake Edwards' best films (the only other contender is The Pink Panther), the gender-bending comedy tells the story of soprano Victoria Grant (Edwards' wife, Julie Andrews). Destitute and starving in 1934 Paris because she's too "legitimate" to get any work singing in nightclubs, Victoria befriends gay cabaret singer Toddy (the always-fabulous Robert Preston), who soon gets a brilliant idea: Victoria should pretend to be "Victor," a gay Polish female impersonator. A haircut and a wardrobe-change later, Victor takes Paris — and Chicago gangster King Marchand (James Garner) — by storm, strutting "his" stuff to numbers like "Le Jazz Hot" and "The Shady Dame From Seville." Of course, it's impossible to buy the beautiful Andrews as a man, even with slicked-back hair and a tux, but it's fun to go along with the illusion. And Victoria isn't the only one with an ulterior motive: Behind the script's crackling dialogue and big musical numbers is a true message-movie. Edwards uses Victor/Victoria to say things about love, gender, and identity that make people like Jerry Falwell sputter. "Will and Grace" may be leaping gay stereotypes in a single bound on TV, but Victor/Victoria was doing it on the big screen a couple of decades ago — and with show tunes, no less. It doesn't hurt that the three leads are all perfectly cast, or that the supporting players include Lesley Ann Warren as squeaky-voiced shrew Norma and Alex Karras as King's brawny-but-sensitive bodyguard. Yes, Edwards' pace is a little too leisurely at times (Toddy doesn't come up with the key gender-switch idea until almost half an hour in), but when you've got this kind of material this caliber of players to work with it, more is more. Warner's DVD release of Victor/Victoria offers an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that's bright and clean, showcasing the film's lovely lighting and colorful sets. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is everything a musical could hope for; other audio options include a French mono track and a bevy of subtitle choices. Filed under "special features" are the theatrical trailer, a list of the film's awards, cast and crew filmographies, and a commentary track by Andrews and Edwards. Although rather sedate in spots, the commentary is informative and infused with the duo's obvious affection for the film (and each other). Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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