Thursday, August 25, 2011

12. "By A Waterfall" from The Footlight Parade

It pains me, wounds me deeply, to leave this one out of my top 10.  Because when I talk about spectacle, well, there ain't no musical number that can hold a candle to this here.  It could teach the kids these days a thing or two about putting on a show.  Think musicals have only gotten better?  Bitch please, this is the bee's knees.

We've already established that Busby Berkley is the man, right?  I mean, aside from commanding a seemingly inexhaustible arsenal of synchronized swimmers, the guy was responsible for the greatest cinematic gymnastics of his day.  "By a Waterfall" as a song is a bit too drawn out, too brassy even, for my tastes, but that's just fog on the glass of the greatest window dressing of all time.  This is surrealism on a Hollywood sized budget, the kind of epic scale event that might as well have been born from an early improbable union of Salvador Dali and Ernst Lubitsch.  Berkley achieves transcendence here from going where no theatrical spectacle could possibly go, training the camera in on birds eye views and dreamy poolscapes, bombarding the senses with an array of visuals that are his and his alone.  To be immersed in a Busby Berkley number is to drift temporarily from your body and hover above a world of his creation.  Time stops, only sound and image exist.  It's a trip worth taking again and again.

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