Saturday, 19 December 2009


I saw the movie version of NINE yesterday and, with a few reservations, enjoyed it very much. It is certainly much better than Rob Marshall's superficially glossy take on CHICAGO or Tim Burton's SWEENEY TODD.
The first thing to state is that it is very, very different from the stage musical although it retains some of the original numbers. However the storyline is re-aligned significantly, many details are changed and roles changed in either character or importance.
Having said that it is not the wholesale musical butchery that the movie version of SWEENEY TODD perpetrated. Nor is it a dreary re-telling which never escapes it's stage roots.
Visually it looks gorgeous with some fantastic set pieces and beautiful costuming. The much touted BE ITALIAN is a showstopper (or would be in the theatre) and is wonderfully vocalised by Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame). GUIDO'S SONG, FOLIES BERGERE and CINEMA ITALIANO are also at the same level.
But actually none of these are the central point of the film. That, far more than in the stage version, is the relationship between Guido and Luisa. And this is where Marshall's casting scores a bullseye. In Daniel Day Lewis he has a Guido who, even when behaving abominably, never loses the audience's sympathy. He perfectly charts the conflicted path of the director shoring up a non-existent movie and juggling relationships on a collision course. I do regret that Day-Lewis was not given THE BELLS OF SAINT SEBASTIAN which is the musical centrepoint of Guido's journey in the stage version. It is especially regrettable as Day-Lewis has a more than creditable singing voice.
He is perfectly complemented by Marion Cotillard who is nothing short of sensational as Luisa. In a role that often fades into the background in stage versions Cotillard grabs every opportunity with both hands. Both her numbers, superbly directed by Marshall, are object lessons in going for broke, painfully raw emotion. This is a performance to place along side her Piaf.
Judi Dench, in a radically realigned version of her role, is also excellent and sells FOLIES BERGERE for all that it is worth.
Nicole Kidman is subtle and gracious in her role as Guido's muse and sing's IN A VERY UNUSUAL WAY beautifully. Kidman does what she can with a role that, even in the stage version, arrives too late in the narrative.
The stage musical ends in a rather opaque and, ultimately, unsatisfactory manner but Marshall has grafted on an epilogue. At first I thought this might be disastrous but actually it brings the narrative to a satisfactory but still open-ended conclusion.
Even if you hate musicals you should see this film for Day-Lewis and Cotillard's performances

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