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  Oh... Rosalinda!! Opera Schmopera
Year: 1955
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Anthony Quayle, Anton Walbrook, Dennis Price, Ludmilla Tchérina, Michael Redgrave, Mel Ferrer, Annelise Rothenberger, Oskar Sima, Richard Marner, Nicholas Bruce, Arthur Mullard, Roy Kinnear, Barbara Archer, Hildy Christian, Grizelda Hervey, Jill Ireland
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Austrian capital of Vienna has been divided among four international powers, the British, American, Russian and French, and they are constantly vying to gain the advantage of their fellow caretakers. Any incident could cause a scandal one of the others could gain the upper hand with, and one such incident happened last night, when the Austrian Dr Falke (Anton Walbrook) was discovered in the lap of a Soviet statue, passed out drunk. He manages to talk his way out of a jail term, but is intent on getting his own back on whoever placed him there, and seeing as how he is no mean practical joker himself his scheme will be something to set the whole city talking...

The partnership of The Archers, producers-directors-writers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, found their greatest acclaim in the first decade of their union, which was the nineteen-forties, yet although they enjoyed the biggest success of their career in the fifties with The Battle of the River Plate, that decade was not considered their finest, and a decline was judged to have set in from 1950 onwards (they would only make one more film as co-directors after River Plate). This despite one of their artistic triumphs Tales of Hoffman being from that period, but that was only ever a cult favourite, and not mentioned as often as The Red Shoes, their biggest musical triumph.

Oh... Rosalinda!! was a case in point, as it was absolutely hated at the time, by critics and audiences alike, who failed utterly to take to its mixture of comedy and opera, in this instance an updating to modern times of Johan Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, originally a 19th century piece whose story it was crowbarred into for this supposed satire on post-war attitudes in Europe. Well, calling it a satire is probably a step too far, it was mostly poking fun at the character of various nations, sort of like what Billy Wilder was fond of doing as an émigré to Hollywood. This was noticeably British, however, and not merely because much of the film's cast were from that part of the world, the guest stars aside.

It might have been that flat, bright colour, it might have been the work's sense of humour (nothing the British love more than poking fun at other nations - their own nations, too), but there was a definite sense of a middle-European opera translated to the north. Whether opera truly suits being translated to English is a matter of taste, but there is a case to be made for leaving such efforts be, and performing them in the language they were written, so it verged on the jarring to listen to a largely dubbed cast miming like that. Those three cast members who did their own singing, in the main Anthony Quayle as the Russian and Michael Redgrave as the Frenchman, merely demonstrated as singers they were better actors, but the recruitment of the leading lady, our Rosalinda, was even more baffling.

She was Ludmilla Tchérina, the famed, French ballerina who was getting on with life after mourning her beloved husband who had died not long after her previous efforts with The Archers, Hoffman. For reasons best known to themselves, they hired her not to sing, fair enough she was not an opera star, but not really to dance either, so she skipped a few steps down a hallway or whatever, but most of the time she stood and posed. The stagebound look of the film offered it a self-consciously artificial appearance which nothing else here did anything to dispel, almost as if this was a gigantic put-on in the manner of one Falke's japes - could the entire movie have been an elaborate private joke? That's what it seemed to be, but if it was hugely self-indulgent and its constant frivolity could be wearing, it was difficult to detest as much as those fifties viewers had, indeed it was so dementedly silly that it was oddly compelling, not funny exactly, but somehow despite being very foolish no one here wholly made a fool of themselves. The least of this lot's musical trilogy by a long, kitschy way, yet strangely watchable.

[Network have released this on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The British Film, in its original aspect ratio and all spruced up, looking better than it has in decades. The trailer is the only extra, though there are subtitles.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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