Friday, January 26, 2007

FINIAN'S RAINBOW (Warner Bros. 1968) Warner Home Video

This reviewer is at a loss to explain why, with all the illustrious film musical entertainment at their immediate disposal, and yet to be released on DVD, have the good people at Warner Brothers chosen Finian’s Rainbow (1968). Apart from the fact that the film features an over-the-hill Fred Astaire in one of his least memorable and least illustrious dance performances, this Irish ditty about the elfin Finian (Astaire) and his coquettish daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) lacks in almost every department; from its leaden direction by non-musical aficionado Francis Ford Coppola to its threadbare plot and even more scant production values.

After scouring the earth in search of treasure, Finian and Sharon arrive in a backwoods town populated by sharecroppers; one Woody Mahoney (Don Francks) a dreamer who believes that his new mentholated tobacco will put the town on the map. Like the wily leprechaun that he’s stolen a crock of gold from, Finian is determined to plant his fortunes in the ground and watch them grow. However, Og, the leprechaun (Tommy Steele) has other ideas.

In retrospect, what is particularly disappointing about this film is its lack of a cohesive narrative. There’s Sharon’s declaration of poverty that inadvertently triggers a minor apocalypse. But this subplot goes nowhere fast. There’s also the question of young romance, paternal love and the ultimate sacrifice that Finian makes to ensure his daughter’s happiness. But again, these seem more like independent vignettes than one comprehensive bit of storytelling.

The story and songs by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy were barely sustainable on stage. On film, they emerge as effervescent snippets hardly worth the effort. Francis Ford Coppola – who clearly lacks in understanding the construction of musical film fantasy – saddle bags the production with heavy-handed long takes and jump cuts that make no cinematic sense.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is rather admirable. Shot in Panavision and in California, there’s no way that anyone who has seen Ireland could mistake these locations for the real thing. Still, the quality of this transfer is over all smooth and satisfying. Colors are rich and often vibrant. There’s a bit more film grain present than one would like to see. Blacks are deep. Whites are sometimes clean.

The audio has been remixed to 5.1. There’s a new intro and commentary track from Coppola and a featurette on the film’s world premiere to get through.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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