13 August 2005 | gftbiloxi
An Under-Rated Charmer
Based on the marginally successful 1965 Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Learner and a solid score by Burton Lane, the 1970 ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER was no box office disaster--but it was a disappointment, failing to draw a broad audience and performing much more poorly than any one had imagined. This is a pity, for although it cannot be classed among the truly great musical musicals it is nonetheless a very good one, imaginatively filmed and beautifully performed.
The story concerns a scatter-brained young woman named Daisy Gamble (Barbra Streisand) who is desperate to quit smoking and who lays siege to a noted hypnotist Dr. Charbot (Yves Montand.) But it happens that Daisy, for all her goofiness, is unexpectedly gifted: she can find lost items, she knows when the telephone will ring--and once under hypnosis she stuns Charbot by transforming into Melinda, a woman who lived, loved, and died more than a century before.
The cast is superior. Streisand is memorably fresh in the role of Daisy and performs her numbers with remarkable youthful zeal and a flawless artistry; she is a tremendous amount of fun to watch and an endless pleasure to hear. Although it seems many Americans fail to see the appeal of the great French singer and actor Yves Montand, he handles his songs with the same world-weary style that first brought him to the attention of the legendary Edith Piaf--and it proves a remarkably effective foil for Streisand, setting off her expansive performance to perfection. The remaining cast, which includes a very young Jack Nicholson and Bob Newhart, is equally fine.
This was the last musical for Vincent Minnelli, perhaps the greatest director of golden age musicals and creator of such films as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, and he endows the film with his very elegant eye; the "past life" sequences, in which designer Cecil Beaton had a hand, are particularly beautiful. Add in such beautifully orchestrated and performed songs as "It's Lovely Up Here," "Come Back To Me," and the title piece--and when all is said and done ON A CLEAR DAY is a very enjoyable film indeed.
The film was originally intended to be released in a three hour version--but in the wake of several box office disasters for large scale musicals both Minnelli and the studio thought better of it and cut the film significantly. It would seem these scenes are gone forever, and more's the pity. Still, this no-frills DVD release offers a best-possible print in terms of both sound and picture, and both long-time fans and newcomers will adore it. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer