Meet Me in St. Louis (BFI Film Classics) Paperback – 1 Nov 1994
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About the Author
Gerald Kaufman is Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton. He is a film critic and writes extensively on cinema, theater, television, and politics. He is the author of "My Life in the Silver Screen."
Top customer reviews
Surprisingly, one thing not mentioned: in the ‘Under the Bamboo Tree’ number, watch for the continuity error ... Tootie’s slippers change colour before the final dance sequence!
If you love this film then you’ll love this book too!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Minnelli's style - which Kaufman recognises but misunderstands, characterising it as 'ostentatious' and 'glossy' - is so meticulously orchestrated because it expresses the characters' inner lives, their joys, dreams, desires, fantasies, fears (Minnelli himself said his mises-en-scenes were purposely designed to invade the unconscious of the audience, which Kaufman notes but doesn't seem to understand). He accuses the film of feel-good escapism, excising any of the less utopian aspects of the source material. But it is in Minnelli's style that these repressed elements are visualised. Kaufman doesn't seem to have read Thomas Elsaesser's or Geoffrey Nowell-Smith's pioneering articles on Minnelli's use of melodrama, the way he used his style of 'excess' (of colour, decor, music etc.) to give expression to those darker elements euphemised in the scripts. How can a film, even one glowing with cheer as 'Meet Me in St. Louis', with the terrifying Hallowe'en sequence, in which a young girl in a happy family spies on a chilly, loveless marriage; with repeated references to death and the possibilities of sexual unfulfilment; with its undermining the security of unchanging family life with the intrusions of modernity; with its father who must repress his professional (in a sense, 'creative') capabilities; how can such a film be called simply 'feel-good', untrue to life? As Oscar Wilde suggested: 'behind the perfection of a man's style, must lie the passion of a man's soul'. Minnelli's soul BURNS.
Kaufman's wilful blindness is of a piece with the whole book. He deliberately misinterprets the auteur theory, before going on to prove it by noting the continuities throughout Minnelli's career, despite working in different genres and as a director-for-hire. He fails to recognise 'A Star Is Born' as one of the most overpowering experiences in cinema (sacrilege!!). There is a distastefully censorious tone in his account of Judy Garland's 'erratic behaviour' on set, like a disapproving headmaster correcting an errant schoolgirl, failing to note the minor fact that MGM had pumped her full of drugs since she was a child to maximise her utility value. He concludes with a hectoring speech about society's modern ills (Kaufman's day-job is as Member of Parliament for the ruling New Labour government).
Students will find this book interesting enough in a plodding way, as Kaufman laboriously and pompously recounts the film's troubled production from his undigested study of MGM records (dull reams of which are quoted verbatim). But there is one paragraph in this book quoted from Joseph Andrew Casper's 'Vincente Minnelli and the Film Musical', which contains more critical insight and empathy then the whole of this 70-page monograph. For Minnelli fans and lovers of the musical THAT sounds like the book to get.
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