Gene Kelly tries art cinema and fails. Too bad, given that this was a very personal film and it took him four years and a lot of persuading of the MGM front office to get it made.
This ambitious work consists of three playlets, all done in dance and mime. No singing or dialogue here, though one doubts that would have helped anyway. Kelly has clearly taken French Film 101 for this endeavor, and his tragic clown in the first segment, the cleverly-named "Circus", is an obvious
rip-off of Jean-Louis Barrault's mime in CHILDREN OF PARADISE. Set to music by Jacques Ibert, the sequence features Kelly with a big case of unrequited love for the circus' star (Sombert). The second sequence is Kelly's superficial take on Max Ophuls. As in LA RONDE, the sappily-titled "Ring
Around the Rosy" features X who loves Y, Y who loves Z and Z who loves . . . you guessed it. He also steals from Ophuls' EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . . as a piece of jewelry (here a bracelet) gets passed back and forth among a circle of lovers. Too bad Kelly doesn't have Ophuls' scathing sense of
irony or his genius with a camera. This is the sequence where MGM didn't like Malcolm Arnold's music and so scrapped it, forcing Andre Previn to compose to already-shot footage. The last and longest sequence, SINBAD THE SAILOR, set to Rimski-Korsakov, features Kelly dancing with animated figures,
but doing nothing he hadn't already done better with Jerry the mouse in ANCHORS AWEIGH.
Long and dull, INVITATION TO THE DANCE is particularly disappointing precisely in the area Kelly emphasizes--dance. With all this terpsichorean talent (including Sombert, Rall, Belita and Toumanova) one would think that the dancing might be better, but Kelly's choreography lets them all down. He
indulges himself as a dancer far too much in the first and third segments, suggesting that Stanley Donen provided some much-needed balance in the films they co-directed. The third sequence in particular has Kelly bounding through animated clouds so often you want to scream. Pure ballet was never
his forte as a choreographer and one longs for more jazz and tap. The film's failure sabotaged Kelly's stardom and maybe even some of his confidence too. It's a shame, but it's still a lousy movie.
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- Review: Gene Kelly tries art cinema and fails. Too bad, given that this was a very personal film and it took him four years and a lot of persuading of the MGM front office to get it made. This ambitious work consists of three playlets, all done in dance and mime.… (more)