Music and Movies / Chicago

Chicago

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Autor:  anton  30 September 2010
Tags:  Chicago
Words: 1715   |   Pages: 7
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Chicago

When I first watched Chicago at the movie theater, I was not fully satisfied. I wanted more, so I went back to get some and watched it six more times with different friends and family members! Last summer during a visit to my native Mexico City, I had the opportunity to watch drag queens perform several numbers from the movie-musical. They did an amazing job, without surpassing the outstanding performances of the actors in the film. Last year, I visited NYC for the first time and indulged in the rows of the Ambassador theatre experiencing Chicago, the Broadway musical, and because I had seen the movie many times before, I knew all the songs and dances by heart. I loved it, but it was actually the movie that influenced me to become a “Chicago fan.” The movie is based on the 1996 Chicago revival of the original musical version of 1975. It was thrilling knowing that the making of the musical into a mainstream production would increase its accessibility and widen its distribution into all the corners of the world; now there is no excuse for people not to experience Chicago, and though not everyone can go to Broadway to see it, just about anyone can indulge themselves in this dazzling movie in the comfort of their homes. In addition to a fantasy world of singing, dancing and Vaudeville, the film also provides a narrative that is explicitly presented through Roxie’s point of view, creating a counter human side to Roxie’s fantasy world so that the audience can easily identify and engage. Chicago is a must see film for anyone who likes to spoil themselves with an outstanding award-winning musical composed of a catchy plot, truly superb acting, commendable direction, and a clever soundtrack.

Bob Fosse’s dazzling adaptation of the plot is a key element that contributed greatly in making Chicago achieve the success it did. Set in the 1920’s, Chicago is based in the real-life murders trials of two women who were eventually exonerated of their alleged crimes. The film’s main characters are Roxie Hart, a housewife who often fantasizes about becoming a Vaudeville star, and Velma Kelly, a vaudeville queen b who desires far more fame than she already has. They both find themselves in the Cook County Jail on “murderesses row”. Crime and short-lived fame are the central themes of this movie. Murder and lies are sensationalized and glorified. It is no surprise that people loved it if you take into account their loyalty in becoming completely invested in the real-life crime and fame scandals of the 90’s. The most notorious that comes to mind are: Selena, Tonya Harding clubbing Nancy Kerrigan, O.J. Simpson's murder trial and the Lewinsky scandal; such scandals build the framework for audiences to enjoy Chicago as a critique of America’s penal system in relation to fame. The main scandal in the movie starts as Roxie shots her lover after discovering that he had lied to her about working to further her singing career. Velma eliminates her husband and sister after finding them together in bed. Billy Flynn, a slick lawyer who has never lost a case represents both women. His approach is to set up his clients as media darlings, then use that exposure to swing the trial in their favor. "In this town, murder's a form of entertainment," he comments. He refers to courtrooms as "three ring circuses" and assures Roxie that justice can be blinded by the "razzle dazzle" he will employ. Aside from sheer entertainment, the plot in Chicago also provides a social critique for the criminal justice system and celebrity “status quo”. It shines a light on matters like murder, justice, and Hollywood. After watching the movie, the audience can expect to be left feeling like a great musical orgy has just taken place in front of their eyes and with something more meaningful to think about, the social critique of America.

The superb acting in Chicago made the movie a truly extraordinary production. With an award-winning cast, Chicago was able to make six nominations for the Academy Awards, and the movie actually won all six awards including best picture of the year. Renй Zellweger (Roxie Hart) gives a legendary performance as the chorus girl who fantasizes about being a Vaudeville star. Her brilliant, realistic acting, and her oozing charisma through her musical numbers such as “Roxie” earned her an Oscar nomination. Richard Gere gives a fine, self-aggrandizing portrayal of Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer, with a marvelous tap routine elaborating his talent. He was awarded a Golden Globe. Queen Latifah, and her wildly entertaining number (When You're Good to Mama), as well as her red-hot portrayal of Matron Mama Morton, earned her an Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Although John C. Reilly can perform an enthusiastic, mean “Mr. Cellophane”, Mr. Reilly also gives a beloved, funny, and heartbreaking portrayal of Amos, Roxie’s unnoticed husband; he was also nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for his work in this movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones however, was the highlight of the movie’s cast. Not only is she a phenomenal dancer, but also she is an outstanding actress. Her exact and witty portrayal of Velma Kelly earned her a Golden Globe Nomination, a SAG Award, a BAFTA Award, and an Oscar. All the cast spent many months preparing for Chicago. Throughout the musical there were no doubles or stunts used, only minimal special effects. All of the actors had to submit themselves to strenuous training in singing, dancing, and developing their characters. Had the cast not done a remarkable job through their exact portrayal of their characters and the above standard performances, the ambitious vision of Chicago would not have been fulfilled.

Rob Marshall’s talented vision in directing Chicago made such a staggering success. He does a remarkable job in setting the mood for the entire film. He starts by literally introducing the beginning title of Chicago through Roxie’s eye. Through that shot he suggests that the whole movie is depicted from Roxie’s point of view. Throughout the making of the movie, Marshall had to overcome a few challenges that at the end resulted in the perfect creation of two fluid worlds within one musical: the narrative and Roxie’s fantasy world of Vaudeville. Many of such challenges revolved around transitions, how to make the shift from the narrative into the fantasy staged Vaudeville performances, without disrupting the flow of the story. My favorite transition that evidently explains the nature of the fantasy side of the story is when a police officer interrogates Roxie and Amos. The policeman points a flashlight at Roxie’s face that turns into a stage spotlight after Amos exposes Roxie’s guilt in the murder of a man, and magically Roxie is performing on stage, escaping her reality into her fantasy world, and yet progressing the narrative. Such methods of film making employed by the Marshall in Chicago make the audience immersed in what is happening on the screen, and it prevents them from anticipating what is coming up. Near the beginning of the film, as the characters and the plot are being introduced, there are two scenes taking place simultaneously, one of Velma’s performances and Roxie’s sexual encounter with her lover. The director presents this scene with the clever use of cross cutting from one scene to the other and back. The result was two very visually stimulating orgies taking place, one in Roxie’s bedroom and one at the nightclub. The director’s flawless method of incorporating a fantasy world with a real story through transitions triggers the viewers to have a blast with the performances as they digest the narrative in the film.

The soundtrack in Chicago makes the musical a truly extraordinary production. All the tunes and lyrics are amazing, and luckily there is a song every two to three minutes. The soundtrack in the film serves a purpose for the narrative; some songs introduce characters as they build the framework for the audience to perceive those characters. Take for instance Velma Kelly’s “All that Jazz,” as it introduces Velma for the first time to the audience, this majestic number also presents her as a successful, self-absorbed showgirl surrounded of jazz, booze, and men. Another instance is Billy Flynn’s “All I Care About is Love.” The latter presents a slick lawyer that always walks away proud and successful from the courtrooms by means of lies and frauds. The irony however, is that the lyrics depict a great, caring, loving guy who only cares about love and not money. “Mister Cellophane” is easily the most touching song as it presents Roxie’s disregarded husband, Amos. His song not only serves to introduce him, but it also adds heart to this otherwise heartless satire. Other songs may not only introduce characters, but also explain situations as they advance the narrative. Take for example Mama Morton’s “When You’re Good To Mama,” this number not only introduces Mama, but it also exposes the way in which things are run in the Cook County Jail, where Roxie and Velma are inmates. The song “We Both Reached for The Gun” is imperative to the musical as it tells Roxie’s story from Billy Flynn’s perspective, which ultimately attains her discharge from jail. Chicago is packed with great energizing songs that always seem to reach several climaxes as they build momentum towards a big musical orgasm, as is the case with the last song of the film, “Nowadays”, where Roxie and Velma perform together on stage for the first time. Regardless of their function, all the songs in the soundtrack have a certain finesse that makes the movie a real auditory delight.

In conclusion, everyone who enjoys the magic of Broadway and the fantasy world of Hollywood must watch Chicago. Although it is at most difficult to translate a stage musical to an Award-winning film, the vision of director was carefully carried making Chicago a very enjoyable film for the whole family.



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