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Assignment #2: Formal analysis of a scene (don’t grade till due date, might add to this)

Filed under: Uncategorized — glennis at 1:22 pm on Saturday, December 3, 2011

(normal version as seen in the end)(the wacky part(has been edited a bit))“Dames” is a 1934 Warner Bros. musical comedy film directed by Ray Enright with dance numbers created by Busby Berkeley. The clip that will be subject for this analyzation will be one of the music pieces from the film, “Only Have Eyes for You.” I personally love this clip, I even danced all the way home singing it one day, but the main reason that I found this interesting enough to write about is about because of the odd-ball dance number in the clip with abstract shapes and girls. Lots of girls.

The clip begins with a young lady who goes by the name of Ruby Keller, standing around in a corner street in front of a theater. She waves to a man, possibly her boyfriend, Dick Powell, as he works in a ticket booth while humming a love song. He sells the last ticket, ecstatic to reunite with his lover and then he begins singing “I Only Have Eyes for you”. They stroll down the streets and when he sings “Disappear from View.” Then all the people in that were around them faded off. When they finally do fade back in one by one the civilians join in on the song, even Ruby as she enters the train with Dick. Normalcy ends here.

As this clips moves on, things begin to get even weirder up until the point where Dick Powell and Ruby Keller are on the train and there are floating dancing heads. If the dancing floating head scene doesn’t signal to folks that this isn’t real then I worry about them. Editing wise the events stream through perfectly, the cuts are not choppy or obvious. It’s what is happening in the film that brings out this realization of fantasy. There are hundreds of copies of Ruby’s face in rows, then suddenly they all belong to doppelgangers of her and they’re on this elaborate moving platform with stairs and everything. The girls all line up and start wailing their arms around the floor and lift their skirts to reveal more of Ruby’s face. The final bit of this act is where there are girls sitting on a couch and one is in the middle of this arch, the girls stand up and line up the center girl then all of a sudden they form into a mirror and Ruby grabs the handle and looks at herself.
The film “Dames” has a strange history to it. It was released in 1934 around the middle of the Great Depression, movies were an escape from the grim reality. Warner Brothers hired Busby Berkeley to create musical numbers in “Dames”, a man who once was known to put on shows and spectacles for army men to boost morale. He accepted of course and went on to combining theater play with camera editing. Berkeley was known for using a mass group of women dancers to create geometrical shapes, give a man with a love for abstract strange shapes a camera and you’re bound with something…interesting. What people is a trippy sensation on screen, it was the gimmick that were luring people to theaters back in those days. Busby knew how to work the camera and he would make his audiences think if not confused out their grumpy minds. In my opinion it was a much more effective way to boost the moral of the civilians, why make a movie that centralized around money when you can have girls creating quirky shapes?

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   Pawel Forfa

December 9, 2011 @ 11:56 am

This entire spectacle disturbed me. It’s over-the-top in showing how a man may think about a woman. It’s most likely done on purpose, however seeing that many reflections of one woman doesn’t give the impression of obsession with the woman, but a fear of her. Good observations on the hundreds of images that pop up. This however to me that was disturbing, but Busby Berkeley’s choreography is amazing.


   Amy Herzog

December 15, 2011 @ 12:17 am

I’m so happy you chose this scene!!! And I’m able to infer that you are thinking through all the reasons why Berkeley would shoot in an abstract way that draws our attention to the materiality of film (right? I hope so!). But it would be great if you had driven the point home a bit more directly (especially since this scene could easily be used to answer the other question about the male gaze). That said, I think your conclusions are spot on and nicely grounded in the historical context. Fantastic work.

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