Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Singin' In The Rain" by Peter Wollen

A BFI Book published by Palgrave Macmillian ISBN 9781844575145

My first introduction to "Singin' In The Rain" was when Alex was raping a woman in "A Clockwork Orange."   My second visit to "Singin'..." is  Peter Wollen's small book length study of the Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen film.   Strange enough, for a hardcore cinema fan like myself I have never ever seen this film.   Yes, I have seen every Fred Astaire movie at least twice, but "Singin' In The Rain" never!  Yet, that didn't stop me from enjoying this critical adventure into the world of Gene Kelly.

I read this book today, in one gulp on my couch, in a temperture that is around 90.  Therefore by an open window with a slight breeze I was taken into an artificial world that Gene Kelly made - a world that was beautiful.   At least conveyed in the text.   This book works on many levels.  One Wollen argues the importance of dance as an art, but also as an equal companion to the cinema art.   Griffith to Chaplin and of course the Kelly/Astaire world had made a language for the film world that was and is totally open to dance.   Wollen writes about the beauty of this combination, but with a strong critical eye.  Also his in depth almost frame-by-frame look at the famous Kelly dance of the leading song here, is playful and informative.  On top of that the reader also gets the political world of the early 1950's and how that played out in the Gene Kelly world.  The book is an enlarged 70mm snapshot of a specific time with a very specific film with an iconic artist.  Strange enough there isn't that many critical studies on Gene Kelly's work, which is a shame.  But with this back in print....

And Wollen adds a kick-ass annotated bibliography that's extremely informative.  It is sort of like him taking you by the hand and showing you the book titles that are important.  For Dancers who need information regarding the dance history, this is a good book to pick up.  For everyone else... well I am going to see the film!  Peter Wollen wrote a beautiful tribute, analysis, and dance/film history in one slim 87 page book that has no wasted space.  Essential!

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