Funny Face is being re-released in a two-disc special DVD set as part of the Paramount Centennial Collection along with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
This is my favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. I like that it’s a musical romantic comedy, with terrific Gershwin tunes. (Hepburn does a surprisingly good job with “How Long Has This Been Going On?”) I like Fred Astaire as the jaded photographer Dick Avery (based on Richard Avedon, who took some of the film’s images) who falls in love with her freshness and innocence, even though he’s too old for her (30 years’ difference, and it shows; still, on one level, Astaire is ageless).
I like the premise, that bookish Audrey (with the character name Jo!) gets shanghaied into being a model, agreeing to go to Paris only so she can meet the philosopher whose concepts she’s naively adopted. The idea that a fashion magazine wouldn’t adore her at first sight tickles me, as does her helplessness in the face of a squad of interchangeable assistants who all look like Seven Sisters girls. While a great photographer can make anyone look amazing, with Hepburn, they had an awfully good starting point. She’s never looked lovelier.
I love Kay Thompson as the hard-nosed magazine editor who dictates style at the stroke of a pen. (Without ever changing her own wardrobe, interestingly enough. I don’t remember a time when fashion was only one look at a time; anyone post-70s doesn’t really understand that. It must have made shopping much easier, though. Plus, all the suits had 3/4 length sleeves to make room for gloves. Gloves! And hats!) Thompson’s numbers always catch my attention, whether it’s “Think Pink”, setting a new style; “How to Be Lovely”, satirizing women’s magazine advice; or “Clap Yo’ Hands”, a faux folk number used to sneak into a den of French bohemians. I hadn’t realized this was her only major movie appearance.
I even like then-big-name model Dovima, who plays Marion. We know she’s supposed to be dumb because she reads comic books (about spacemen) on break, although reportedly, Dovima was herself a comic fan. The photo shoots and fashions are incredible, as you’d expect in a movie about modeling. The sequence where the two leads move from Astaire coaching her through high-fashion photo shoots to her surprising him with even better concepts is a high point of the movie.
To my untrained eye, this transfer looks fantastic. During the “Think Pink” number, there are several multiple exposure images, and the lines are much less noticeable than I recall. The colors are brilliant. The extras on the second disc include three new to this edition:
- A feature on Kay Thompson’s surprising career. In addition to performing and arranging music for films, she also wrote the series of Eloise children’s books. Fascinating woman!
- An explanation of VistaVision, Paramount’s widescreen technology developed to compete with television. Clips from the period plug years of work by scientists in optics (illustrated by a guy in shirt and tie looking into a microscope). Some of the more famous films using VistaVision, besides this one, include To Catch a Thief, The Ten Commandments, and White Christmas. It also influenced the special effects of Star Wars.
- Information on the craft of fashion photography. A modern-day crew — including photographers and makeup and wardrobe stylists — conduct a shoot based on the look of this movie. I found much of this boring, but then, I’m not interested in the subject. Those interviewed also don’t display much personality, except for the makeup artist, whom I would have gladly watched more of.
while these carry over from the previous Anniversary Edition release.
- “The Fashion Designer and His Muse”, about Givenchy. Has some nice images of the gowns from Sabrina, the first movie they worked together on.
- “Parisian Dreams”, about the city.
- “Paramount in the 50s”, with clips of their best movies of the era.
- Photo galleries and original trailer.
The new featurettes are a definite plus, especially the first two. Now let’s hope they complete the Hepburn series with a deluxe re-release of Paris When It Sizzles! (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)