38.jpgWhat did you do this weekend? Were you one of the 5 million people who paid to see Naomi Watts match wits with a spooky video signal? Yeah, me niether. Here at Cinematical headquarters, I watched the recently-released special edition of Vincente Minnelli's 1960 musical, Bells are Ringing. What an amazing film - it gets the short shrift from many Minnelli admirers, but I found it so much more moving and entertaining than his typical mid-period disquisitions on masculinity (Yolanda and the Thief? Slink back into the corner, because I’m totally talking to you).

The last musical produced by Arthur Freed’s mythic production unit at MGM, Bells stars Judy Holliday as a lovelorn telephone operator who accidentally falls for Dean Martin’s boozy playwright whilst taking his messages. Mistaken identity, culture clash, Oedipal entanglements and a few great subtextual jokes about prostitution ensue. The chemistry between the two stars is phenomenal, and the film is full of neatly drawn self-reflection (a song about namedroppers namedrops both Freed and Minnelli).

Bells are Ringing
is typical of its brief era, an artifact left behind by a genre in transition. When the Freed Unit closed its doors, gone was that mid-century musical world of glamour and fantasy (see: most of Minnelli's other films); the self-conciously "gritty" new musicals of the late 60s-early 70s (see: the younger Minnelli, Liza, in Cabaret) were soon to begin. The best sections of Bells are those that acknowledge the film's generic fence-sitting, especially those that treat New York City (in all of its geo-political connotations) as a separate character, one the protagonists are alternately seduced by and forced to do battle with.

The DVD includes three deleted scenes, plus a making of doc starring Hal Linden, who appeared in the musical opposite Holliday on Broadway. You can buy it here or rent it here. And you really should.

Anyway. See anything good this weekend? Let us know - maybe we can compare notes.
categories Dvds, Cinematical