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Friday, November 7, 2014

A SONG TO REMEMBER (1945)

Nonsense as history; nonsense as film. At least, there’s the music, you think. And there is. Excerpts dubbed for Cornel Wilde’s hearty Frederic Chopin in José Iturbi's hearty Chopin style, or orchestrated as background fodder by Miklós Rózsa, like a never-ending Chopiniana suite. Actually, the best scene in the pic finds Liszt sight-reading a Polonaise and Chopin joining in. If only they’d get thru the end! You also get Merle Oberon as George Sand, changing from pants to a dress to woo the sickly composer. She might be her own romantic rival! Especially when she’s preaching Selfishness (a la Ayn Rand) to the ailing composer who insists on concertizing for Polish freedom fighters. And don’t forget Paul Muni as discarded teacher/mentor, destroying his acting reputation in a single film with a performance so meticulously overwrought, he might be auditioning for the lead in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE . . . both leads. Naturally, the film was a big, big hit with 6 Oscar® noms.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: In its more sophisticated way, IMPROMPTU/’97 is nearly as ahistorical about Sand/Chopin; less Hollywood, more NOTTING HILL, so to speak. But it’s entertaining stuff with a funny, bitchy tone and a perfectly cast Judy Davis as George Sand.

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