26 January 2012 | teeport-1
The greatest film ever made by trolls
SONG OF NORWAY appraisals seem to divide into 3 factions: (1) those who find it dull & appallingly bad, adding their voices to the chorus of general disapproval (2) those who welcome the chance to bray at it's frequent clunkiness, like watching an Ed Wood film or (3) those like me, who fondly accept it's flaws & sincerely appreciate what it does have to offer: scenery, sentiment, good voices & great melodies. Either you like this kind of thing or you don't, probably the finest example of this genre (romanticized life of a classical composer) is 1938's THE GREAT WALTZ. Magnificent production. Of course it's historical hogwash, but the true artistic temperament isn't something you'd necessarily wanna' watch on film, as many great artists were testy, selfish & downright unhygenic. Mozart as depicted in AMADEUS would've felt right at home with Beavis & Butthead.
Some parts of NORWAY are like visual music (travelogue with voice-over), and some numbers are touchingly presented: Florence Henderson's "I Love You" & Frank Poretta's "Three There Were" with a glowing-sunset background. Admittedly "Freddy & His Fiddle" can reduce a roomful of friends to helpless laughter: it crosscuts joltingly between a quiet hillside conversation, dancers leaping & spinning madly, children clapping robotically, and sudden closeups of sheep & goats.
I particularly enjoy location-set musicals like GODSPELL, the '72 TOM SAWYER, the too-fleeting street photography in WEST SIDE STORY, etc. NORWAY'S original cast album topped the charts as a set of 78s in 1945, a full quarter-century before the movie appeared. That's not quite an all-time record, the wickedly witty & coldhearted CHICAGO (you don't go to Kander & Ebb for lilting reassurance) took even longer to reach the screen after it's original Broadway staging. NORWAY'S one of several examples of lyrics retro-fit to familiar classical music, it was also done in KISMET, Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY & THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN, a late '50s TV special starring Van Johnson. The lyrics of the stage & screen SONG OF NORWAY are quite different from one another, and one soundtrack selection ("When We Wed"), if memory surfs, is not in the movie.
I'm sure SONG OF NORWAY must've been something to see at the Cinerama Dome or even a neighborhood theater (I doubt there would've been much competition for good seats), but it seems a particular shame it's never appeared on domestic DVD. Plenty of other favorites remain maddeningly elusive: YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW, BYE BYE BRAVERMAN, THE TRUTH ABOUT SPRING, but more than any other film I would love to see SONG OF NORWAY finally available in widescreen. Maybe it will be, one fine day.
Critical Rating: 5 Personal Enjoyment Rating: 8