No 353 - Bugsy Malone
Director - Alan Parker
I love Paul Williams. The man is a legend. He wrote some of the best songs of the 70s and is brilliant in every medium. From cartoon to performing with Muppets. Nothing can phase him and he played the greatest crap villain ever.
Despite how much I LOVE Phantom of the Paradise, Bugsy Malone is Paul's real high point. A superb film and the greatest school play ever. I wanted, more than anything, to be Fat Sam - I certainly had/have the physique for it. However our school never did the show, so I just watch the show and enjoy the sheer bonkers wonderfulness.
The genius behind this film is the juxtaposition with children and the gritty film noir of the 20's gangster era. It is the same with Who Framed Roger Rabbit - it is a brave move to show this gritty world and both show the world as dark and gritty. The children or cartoons just make it all a bit more palatable.
In this film - all the gangsters and citizens are children. This opens up moments of necessary tweaking. My personal favourite are the cars. They putt and puff and sound like proper 30s cars, though they are pedal powered. It is a silly little touch - and adds a lightness to the car chases and drive by shootings which occur during the film.
However... the main change is also the films strongest selling point. Splurge Guns! I can't think of a single person in the world who wouldn't want a splurge gun. Splurge guns are excellent and not only add a fabulous level of mess, but also provide a useful bypass to gun violence and blood shed. If you get cream in your face (from a pie or a splurge) then you are OUTA THERE.
Cue many a pie face montage and general creamy madness.
Whilst the film brilliantly tackles aspects of gangster life, there are some elements which will never be comfortable when acted with children. Namely the dolly girls dancing in the speakeasy. My Name is Tallulah is one of those overtly sexual songs that just seems weird when performed by children.
Whilst we're on the topic of Tallulah let me cover an important point. Jodie Foster's breakout role was in the same year as Iris in Taxi Driver. As oddly sexual the Tallulah scenes are, they're not a patch on playing a child prostitute dating an abusive paedophile pimp.
The other thing about Jodie Foster is the degree with which she outshines every child actor in this film. The problem with children is they're not the best actors. For every awesome natural child you get a lot of freaky robot adult-kids or people who are just pants. Scott Baio may have succeeded with Happy Days and other TV shows, but I think it is clear why Jodie Foster is the only one with a big film career. She slinks and simmers in every scene and steals the camera from every person.
There isn't a single person in Bugsy Malone who out-performs Jodie Foster.
The strange acting isn't helped by the bizarre lip syncing used in the film. Whilst the children voice the characters for the majority of the film, they lip sync to adults during the songs. Most of the time this feel very very strange. See Fizzy, the sweeper, performing Tomorrow. It feels weird hearing cracked and sultry tones come from Albin Jenkins' slight frame.
However, at times it works just superbly. The ridiculous and comic nature of Bad Guys is only made better by the disproportionately deep voices used throughout the song. The voices suit the dances, the comedy and the tone of that song.
The film flits from serious songs to fabulously slapstick songs and whilst the tone changes effortlessly, the voices don't always blend so well.
The songs are also fab. Fab fab fab. the final song - the reprise of Bad Guys leading into 'Give a Little Love' sets the moral for the film. The film does have a moral, work together instead of fight. The whole film highlights this without being preachy. The film's tone is adult but childish, sensible but fun. Whilst there are a lot of flaws in the film (at one point... the extras are staring directly INTO the camera), the flaws are outshone by the quirks, idiosyncrasies and the fabulous tone of the film.
It is a film that aspire to. I don't think Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes are the only adults who have wanted to use their position to recapture the fun.
It injects a joi de vivre into the viewer. A sense of fun that everyone wants to capture.
That was why the mighty quadrophobe always used to cover Bad Guys. Just to see that child like smile grow across those cynical drunk faces.
THAT is the power of cinema ladies and gentleman!