Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Movie "Nine" Goes Down For the Count

Nine is about the artistic and marital crises suffered by a prominent Italian movie director in the early 1960s. I saw and enjoyed the original theater version in New York in the early 1980s. However, it looks as though the makers of the movie version had some crises of their own.

Nine, like Chicago, is a musical whose numbers have a surreal aspect to them. In fact, it’s very much like Chicago, and by the same director, but largely without the good acting, the good dancing, the good music, the good lyrics, the good script, and the good plot. The title has to do with the main character's flashbacks and emotional attachment to his nine year old self, but why this particular aspect is so important is not clear, at least in the movie version, although I confess to stretches of, ahem, inattention. It has a large cast of non-Italian, non-singers playing Italians with bad accents who occasionally break out in song; why the makers of this movie chose to cast in singing roles so many actresses who cannot sing may be the eternal question about this film. If you do wind up at the theater, my advice is to have your female companion elbow you for the “Be Italian” number, the only one worth distracting yourself for, and then return to your email, your nap, or your deliberations on places to vacation next summer. The "Folies Bergere" number also could have been pretty good – it has a catchy tune, but having the very overexposed and very-post-ingénue Judy Dench, heretofore and hereafter not known as a singer, belt it out in a dress with a generous décolletage is too much to bear, capturing in a nutshell this miss of a movie.

Richard Balsamo