Watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance is probably the single most enchanting thing I have ever seen in a movie. It is not just their grace and precision (Astaire was known to be a perfectionist and rehearsed indefatigably). It’s the sheer joy of their performance. They seem so happy dancing that it lights up my world.
The plot in Fred & Ginger movies is usually fluff, involving much by way of misunderstandings and falling-in-love-despite-best-efforts. Anyone who has seen a romantic comedy knows how these things work. It helps, of course, that both lead actors are quite likeable. Fred has a face that would make his portrait look like a caricature, but he’s got this whole nice-guy thing going for him. Ginger’s USP as an actress is the way her eyes convey so much mischief and playfulness when she smiles. Not many actresses have that quality. Madhubala and Audrey Tautou come to mind immediately.
Then there’s the dancing. What I remember best is a song in Top Hat where Fred and Ginger take shelter from the rain in a gazebo. He’s busy wooing her, so he starts singing and dancing to Isn’t this a lovely day. She watches him for a while, then starts dancing herself. To begin with, she just casually imitates his steps, then slowly it evolves into this breathtaking dance sequence. It was during this sequence that I realized what an amazing dancer Ginger Rogers was. She once famously said, “Whatever Fred did, I had to do backwards and in high heels.”
Aside: I think Karan Johar “pays tribute” to this scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai when SRK and Kajol take shelter from the rain in a gazebo and he asks her to dance with him.
Right at the end of that song, they sit down on the steps, tired and happy, and shake hands. For a moment there, you don’t see Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, the characters they play in the movie. You just see two dancers congratulating each other after a very enjoyable dance. I loved that.
My wife once commented that I don’t seem to write too many reviews. This is true – I don’t enjoy writing reviews too often. I find it tiring to have to think about and evaluate the whole movie, instead of just a scene or two that engaged me in some way. With many movies, all I remember is specific moments that I thought were great. Sometimes it’s a beautifully framed shot. Or a scene set up so that it conveys volumes without a single line of dialogue. Or a perfectly delivered line. Or a sight gag that never fails to make me smile. I guess what I am looking for is a moment that encapsulates an entire experience. There have been many such moments, and they have a lot to do with why I am so in love with the movies.
The flip side is that they are sometimes very personal reflections. I am not sure if they convey anything interesting to someone who hasn’t watched the movie, or even to someone who has.
You tell me. If you haven’t seen the movie, has any specific freeze frame post made you want to watch it? If you have, do you (dis)agree with my assessment of a particular scene (insofar as I have actually assessed the scene and not just described it)?