Nine

A film about a character in a film, which is really an autobiographical one about the director. That’s not the most appealing set-up, I agree. It makes you think that its full of post-modern navel gazing and empty symbolism. Well that would be harsh. Forget about the roots of the film (click on the link above if you’re really interested), and what you have is an enjoyable but at best morally dubious musical.

Chicago, also from director Rob Marshall, inexplicably became an awards darling. Though originally a huge show, I felt that never really captured the phyiscality of the dancing, and hence all you were left with were some decent songs and a morally story told by good-looking women in various states of undress. Nine is less well-known, generally speaking. This works to its advantage – the only expectations I went in with were ones as a result of Chicago. The positives are more or less all in the cast: it’s the very definition of heavy-weight; and it is true that there isn’t a single one of them who is out of their depth with singing, dancing and acting. Led, of course, by Daniel Day-Lewis, who glides though the whole thing with the class and grace you expect.

All of which makes you wonder what Rob Marshall said to get all these people involved, and how someone like Judi Dench really feels about it. There’s much that’s good here, and much to enjoy, but for the second Rob Marshall musical in a row I’m left wondering why the camera had to spend so long lingering on the curves and skimpy costumes of the many women in the cast. It’s difficult to say this is just a lustful, lascivious piece – there’s a hint of real subtlety and intelligence at work here. But I can’t shake the discomfort – and once may just be an accident; for this, the second time, in two musicals you have to wonder what’s really in Rob Marshall’s heart. Good stuff, but leaving an aftertaste I can’t get rid of a week later.

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