WK2M2 The Musical

Hello Everyone!

This section deals with the genre the Musical.

The films to view are:

Dickson Sound Experiment, WIlliam Dickson, 1894

Gold Diggers of 33, Mervyn LeRoy, 1933

Moulin Rouge!, Baz Luhrmann, 2001

(please note the 1952 film was added in error, it is a British film, not American, feel free to watch, but it is not required)


Today’s discussion is brought to you by Group 2: Christophe Freeman, Michael Ashby & Stefan Grimsley

28 thoughts on “WK2M2 The Musical

  1. Christophe Freeman

    After reading chapter 7 on The Musical, it describes two different forms of musicals: Backstage and Busby Berkeley. In which group would you put Gold Diggers of 1933 and Moulin Rouge and why?

    1. Jennifer Machura

      Gold Diggers is definitely a Busby Berkeley musical. The plot of the movie revolves around an actual musical being cast, produced, and performed. The most elaborate musical numbers take place in the setting of the theater, where the singers and dancers are performing in front of an audience. These numbers that are performed are done in a way that seamlessly turns the theatrical into the cinematic. In the musical number that takes place in a park setting, Polly and Brad dance on a sparsely decorated stage that eventually transforms into a curtain-less, boundary-less winter scene, complete with blowing snow. The transition from this on-stage summer afternoon in the park to a cinematic winter scene is by showing a policeman start to shiver when first leaves and then snow fall on him. I think that this close-up of a character reacting to the changes in the scene around him is an excellent way to move the action along and also converts it from singing and dancing on a stage, to singing, dancing, and playing in a park in the winter.
      Moulin Rouge is a Backstage musical because it involves a show being produced and performed. This is similar to the Busby Berkeley musicals, but the songs in Moulin Rouge come much more spontaneously and not always with an audience right there to hear them. In the scene in which Christian takes his first drink of Absinthe, a Green Fairy appears and sings The Sound Of Music with Christian and the other men. They’re not singing to an audience, but to themselves and the imaginary Green Fairy. The songs in Moulin Rouge are also born more out of emotion than out of the necessity to perform them in front of a crowd.

    2. Levi Brown

      I’m definitely agreeing with everyone else on this when they say that Moulin Rouge is a backstage musical and Gold Diggers is a Busby Berkeley musical. In Moulin Rouge I can see that the musical numbers are motivated by the characters’ performances they put on but unlike a Busby musical, the songs are not always being performed for an onscreen audience. The songs are often motivated by the characters’ emotions. I am seeing some similarities between backstage musicals and Brechtian films but I’m not willing to step out and claim that Moulin Rouge is a Brechtian film.

      1. Alexandra Freda

        I agree with the previous comments that Gold Diggers is a Busby Berkeley musical and Moulin Rouge is a backstage musical. In the text on page 151 they specifically discuss Moulin Rouge and its technique of songs driven by an melodramatic intensification of feeling, songs are integrated into the dramatic action occurring in the film, and exhibits the basic plot elements of the typical backstage musical.

    1. Steven Colonero

      Well much like jennifer said before, that in Gold Diggers most of the musical numbers take place within the actual musical being produced, The number add to the story of them rehearing the numbers like many of the traditional musicals such as Singing in the Rain and White Christmas. They are putting on a show. The same can also be said for Moulin Rough, where some of the number take place within the theater, however what makes Moulin Rough so different is the fact that many of these songs like Jennifer stated actually happening spontaneously yet still have that theater quality with the dancing and singing. I would also like to point out that when that movie begins and ends a curtain opening and closing, much like a classic theater show. Baz also uses Berkeley style in some ways with his number uses wide shots to show the singing and dancing. I think this can really be seen when Nicole Kidman sings “Dimonds are a girls best friends”. But what I really enjoyed most about Baz’s interpretation of Moulin Rough is the use of modern songs in era where this type of music did not exists. This use of juxtaposition of this particular music really displays his style of film making that really works in Moulin rough to capture the chaos and sexuality of 1900s France.

      1. Allison Hudson

        I agree with your comment about using modern music in a historical period. That is one of the reasons I love Luhrmann’s films, because they tell stories in another time but rely on modern music to aid the narrative. Romeo + Juliet is probably my favorite.

    2. Jennifer Machura

      I think the musical numbers in Gold Diggers of 33 were integrated more successfully than the ones in Moulin Rouge. Because the plot of Gold Diggers of 33 revolves around musical theater and a particular show that is being put on, the songs that are scattered throughout the film are more natural. Almost every song in the film takes place as musical theater, in front of an audience. That helps smooth the transition from just acting to singing and dancing because these actions are such an integral part of the storyline. The plot of Moulin Rouge involves a performance being planned and acted out, but the songs feel unnatural and almost forced. I think that one of the reasons is because of the delivery of the songs: as Belton says, there is no motivation for the songs, but they are usually initiated by some sort of emotion (149-50). Instead smoothly transitioning, the songs in Moulin Rouge come abruptly. At certain times when they do launch into a song, it feels almost silly. Another reason could be that some of these songs (particularly Smells Like Teen Spirit) are well-known contemporary pop and rock songs, and to hear them sung in a musical film about Paris in the 1900’s.

    3. Renee Schuyten

      I found the music numbers in Gold DIggers to be very seperate and extraneous to the narrative. I understand they were part of the “show”, but the music didn’t feel part of the story so much as just the character’s jobs. In Moulin Rouge!, however, the music really was the story, speaking to the emotional state of the characters and their plight in the moment.

    4. Nick Neal

      In Gold Diggers of 1933 and the 1952 Moulin Rouge. The music is in the background of the plot, it’s not really that prevalent.

      In the 2001 Moulin Rouge, the movie is really just one song after another. Every single dramatic unit is expressed through song.

    5. Levi Brown

      I think the answer depends upon the viewer. I imagine some viewers won’t notice how music numbers come up in either form of the musical but I bet that backstage musicals have the potential to be more off-putting when a musical number suddenly begins from what seems like left-field. I often think of the High School Musical movies. They just start up a song and dance right there in the cafeteria just to work out whatever they’re going through. The word ‘musical’ was in the title and every song felt like it came out of nowhere and made me cringe. Don’t they have some class they need to be in?
      As far as the movies we were assigned to watch, I thought both were fine in the integration of musical numbers. But I do have a soft spot for Moulin Rouge.

      1. Nicholas Mertens

        I agree that it has to do with with the viewer for the most part. The seamless transition from the narrative to the music is one of the things that I really look for in movies, and one of the reasons that a lot of musicals really turn me off. I also agree that the films we watched were really well integrated, but if Moulin Rouge wasn’t as pretty, and neat to look at, I would have problems with some of the musical numbers.

    6. Parrish Colbert

      In Moulin Rouge the music could be used as dialogue based how literal it is to what’s going on. Through music they grab your emotion and through lyrics they give you an understanding. In Gold Diggers the music really doesn’t tie too heavily with story rather a backround medium

  2. Renee Schuyten

    I think that Moulin Rouge! was an interesting new take on a modern musical in that it used familiar music to transition the audience into their own personal state of spectacle. The film took the audience’s own feelings and history with those popular songs, even sometimes just a few lines not even sung but spoken, and used that familiarity to skip the audience ahead into the story. Of course it was silly, John Leguizamo as a dwarf! It blends in quite a bit of screwball comedy. I don’t think it would have been tolerated if it took itself too seriously.

  3. Nick Neal

    Gold Diggers of 1933 and the 1952 version of Moulin Rouge are back stage musicals, mainly because the music happens in a rational way. The singing happens within situations where we would expect singing, a play. It doesn’t rupture reality.

    The 2001 vesrion of Moulin Rouge however, is a Busby Berkeley, in that the singing ruptures reality (an example being where Christian and Satine are singing and the windows around them suddenly transform. It even ruptures time as songs from the end of the twentieth century are imported into a narrative about the beginning of the twentieth century.

  4. Evan Halleck

    I am currently watching Gold Diggers now so I will repost my opinion and thoughts on it but I do think that Moulin Rouge was an excellent musical that really captures the spirit format and beauty of old school musicals of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. I Think it did a good job of blending the musical format and still being able to clearly tell a story. I also agree with Renee that I don’t know if I would have like it as much if it took is self extremely seriously.

  5. Allison Hudson

    I actually took it that Busby Berkeley musicals were a type of backstage musical, just stylized in Berkeley’s own vision. For example, he shifts in perspective from eye-level to overhead shots, as well as location changes from stage to street, etc. Gold Diggers is an example of a backstage musical because it incorporates performance into plot while not literally being a stage show.
    Meanwhile, Moulin Rouge uses some elements of backstage because it is about preparation for a performance, but there are also musical numbers outside of the performance that are only relative to the characters of Satine and Christian. It has both elements of backstage and traditional musical cinema in that regard.

    1. Allison Hudson

      I feel like Belton would consider it a musical because he does bring up Dirty Dancing, which is more of a dance flick. The characters do not sing and all of the music in the film is part of the story, when the characters perform for audiences or when they practice. He does talk about characters in musicals being nonprofessionals trying to become professionals which isn’t really the point of Footloose, but I think it could be considered.

    2. Shelby Brown

      I would consider footloose a musical, just because it features a lot of music. Of course, Belton would probably be able to go into more deeper details about the film if he felt the same way. The musical aspect of footloose is what carries the film. When a musical scene is shown, you can tell that the music is really what plays a big role into bringing the film to life.

  6. Alexandra Freda

    I think the musical numbers are integrated well into the narrative of both films. In neither film did I feel at any point the music was unexpected, came out of nowhere or didn’t relate to the plot and what was going on. There are only four musical numbers in Gold Diggers versus many more (not sure of the exact count) in Moulin Rouge. The songs in Moulin Rouge continue and refer directly to the emotional states and character development and narrative structure of the film, whereas the musical scenes in Gold Diggers are a part of the musical they are working on within the story. This crosses over in Moulin Rouge as well during their rehearsals (Roxanne) and the actual musical scenes in the play Spectacular, Spectacular.

  7. Clark Faust

    First of all, I hate Baz Luhrmann. Now that I have that off my chest, I will agree with many of the other people that have commented previously that Moulin Rouge is a Backstage musical. The musical numbers in the film are both performed with audiences present and also to simply enhance and tell the story. The songs performed were driven by the character’s emotions to go along with the plot of the film.

  8. Angelo Lima

    The first Moulin Rouge listed was more calm to take in and down to earth while the second Moulin Rouge was more extravagant with more at your face excitement with the different musical schemes throughout. Many more people that I know are more familiar with the second Moulin Rouge than the other because of the famous actors of the time such as Nicole Kidman which brings a great a triumphant toward the musical with her outstanding acting.

  9. Angelo Lima

    The experimental sound video troubled me a little because of how the guys looked like they were just playing around just trying to make up stuff. Some people might say that anything not of the ordinary is considered experimental music, but I think it is just sound not actual music. Many people when they hear music such as on radio everyone hears that because that is what the norm listens to in our society. If the norm of people listened to more complicated music depending on whatever genre they listen to their would be a bigger step in evolution for music overall.

  10. Kendrick Branch

    In comparison, the two films integrated the musical numbers into the narrative very differently. Both films implemented aspects of Backstage and Busby Berkeley Musicals, making them each musical forms of their own.
    In Gold Diggers, because the integration is direct and real, each time the register shifts from narrative to number the audience is taken to a state of “ecstasy.” Moulin Rouge has a similar effect, but in a world that seems to be a spectacle already, the shift is subtler. Moulin Rouge seems to keep the spectator in that state of ecstasy by blurring the line between musical and narrative reality. Golden Rush may blur that line in it’s own way but the effect is much more subtle, even though the transition is sometimes much more obvious.

  11. Michael Ashby

    My apologies for not helping lead this discussion. My textbook finally came in after waiting for ten days, but from here on out, I will be more involved with all of the discussions and blog questions.

  12. Savannah Steiner

    Moulin Rouge like everyone said would use moments that were emotional to bust out a song. The only time they really performed in front of an audience, the music was cut short and as a viewer we didn’t hear the whole song. Most musicals we are exposed to perform the song as if the audience were watching from a stage. A few close up here and there but all in all most are shot in a wide. This helps give us a feel that it is a musical being performed. What makes Busby Berkeley different than Moulin Rouge in the way the songs are performed. Moulin Rouge has tight closeups, crazy editing, creative movement integrated in choreography and many scene changes. During Roxanne, it cuts from inside the Moulin Rouge where everyone is dancing to inside the Dukes room where he is dancing. Christian is trying to get away and the woman (Roxanne) feels she is being sung too. It is all over the place and not your typical musical number. It would be if they shot both scene wide and kept only one scene. In musicals you never break during a song or edit during a song and then go back to it, however Moulin Rouge does that. I think it is a backstage musical and that allows for some breaks.

    The song starts and in the middle a scene change happens than it goes back to finish the song, or an action is different to change the song. It works because of the consistent crazy editing and the way the songs are performed. They are tied to an emotional happening with the characters and are brought out in a more private and intimate manner, rather bedazzling with a show (like the first scene, which had an audience). It allows for timing to be off and also the backstage essence of rehearsal and run throughs. The way the songs are written also effect how stagey and choreographed the numbers will be. Like a Broadway show. But Moulin Rouge, again, is so spastic and intimate that it is okay for the breaks and crazy editing to happen.

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