Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You´ve got lip synch on your teeth.


I watched Cher´s hit film "Burlesque", needless to say it was dreadful with the only real narrative action coming from Christina Aguilera´s arsenal of Halloween store wigs.

But, it really got me thinking about the fine art of lip synching. As in all movies, the singers lip synch their parts to pre-recorded tracks to make editing easier, only in "Burlesque" we´re watching two of the paragon´s of lip synch culture at work, that is to say the ladies lip synchers the world over move their mouths too. And both of the leading ladies, it must be noted, are really working a high drag look. Pop will eat itself. The supporting cast in the movie lip synch onstage to the voices of other legends (Marilyn Monroe et al) which gives the movie a cute sort of cut-price glamour, but really it could be said that the whole movie lip synchs.

I mean isn´t it the most blatant "Cabaret" re-do? Scene for scene, theme for theme shot for shot, move for move, Fosse´s ´70s masterpiece is bled dry. Rakish millionaires, sexually ambiguous room mate love affairs, chorus line pregnancies - it´s all rented. (And what isn´t taken wholesale from "Cabaret" comes bit by bit from "Showgirls", itself a compression of a couple of decades worth of low rent cinema). Alan Cummings in his role as door host is the most clear example, reprising as he does his role as the Emcee in the stage version of "Cabaret" with more than a dash of Joel Grey in the movie version. In effect our dear Mr Cummings is lip synching his role too.

Sadly though the movie´s budget is so astronomical and obvious that there is never room even for a moment for any amount of magic to happen. That beautiful gap between the body and the voice is barren, there is nothing at work in that no-man´s land to suggest that the movie is sitting all the way through. Where every good lip synched drag show goes is to a place of deliberate suspension of disbelief, into a place where the pleasure is choosing to believe in the sorcery you see onstage, to revel in the Emerald City and not reveal the mundane nature of what is behind the curtain.

"Burlesque" however is a wonderland so woefully heavy-handed in explaining every minor, irksome plot detail that a person cannot help but feel insulted and deprived of the wonder of projecting themselves into the story. Surely half of the thrill of a movie is feeling as though the circumstances onscreen have some definite impact on your own well-being? For me "Burlesque" is all about the lip synching, and the knowledge that as yet I have not been so decimated by Hollywood tragedies like this one, that I can no longer crowbar my way into the horrors of contemporary culture and find a way to explore.

(With thanks to Joey Hansom for the title of this post).

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