Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Great Musical Number From a Non-Musical Film

Not much to post lately, but here's a clip of the best part of Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther: the irrelevant musical number "Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight)." It's sung by Fran Jeffries, who is otherwise totally irrelevant to the movie (too bad, because she's actually sexier than either of the leading ladies, Capucine and Claudia Cardinale, neither of whom are at their best in this movie). The Henry Mancini tune is one of his best, and Edwards' love of jet-setter culture -- the lavish settings, the cosmopolitan mix of American and European styles -- comes through here, as does his love of long takes: the whole number is done in just two shots.

While the number is, as I said, irrelevant to the story -- even Edwards, on the DVD commentary, says he can't remember exactly why he decided to put a musical number here -- it does highlight something about the characters, namely the way Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is separate and isolated from all the other characters: the "cool" characters, the jet-setting thieves and con artists, all sit together in the centre of the room, while Clouseau is off to one side. And when he tries to join in the dance number, he's out of step. It's part of the movie's casual cruelty that Clouseau, the only good person in the movie, is routinely humiliated by the other characters, all of whom are charming but amoral; Clouseau is the guy who believes in the law, and marriage, and all those other things that the movie dismisses as out of step. There's a reason he's wearing white in this scene: he's the innocent, lost in a cruel world -- but the strange thing about the movie is that Edwards seems to be on the side of the cruel people.


Anonymous said...

When you go back and watch the original "Panther" after seeing the later entires in the series, there's a certain mean-spiritedness towards Sellers' character that's off-putting.

I suppose the audience's sympathy was supposed to be with David Niven here, but the cynicism of the script doesn't have enough of a comedic payoff to justify the treatment of Clouseau, and Edwards must have gotten feedback about that as well, since "A Shot In the Dark" was written to make sure the audience's sympathies were always with the dectective and not with the amoral jet setters or their hired help (other than Miss Gambrelli).

Anonymous said...

By some truly bizarre coincidence I was actually listening to this very track when I stopped by your site.

An even odder point is that although Fran has almost no other part in the film she is introduced as the Greek cousin then sings a song in Italian (and in both cases far outdoes Dick Van Dyke in the appalling accent stakes). Still that little shoulder shimmy near the beginning of this song makes anything else forgiveable.