The Sound of Music, Robert Wise, 1965
Some know-somethingish drip over at Slant tried to take a contrarian or counter-intuitive or whatever the hell they call it "take" on the motion picture from which the above screen capture is derived in a review of its 45th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray edition, said take consisting of him pissing all over the material, but then playing "devil's advocate"...by allowing that the film version has a more tolerable book, as it were, than the stage one. Damn, that hardly even qualifies as faint praise. His qualification to deliver this verdict is based, I guess, on the fact that he played Friedrich for eight months when he was a kid. The circumstances of this portrayal are not given; I suppose we're to infer that the author was a child actor of some kind, but I prefer to think he was kidnapped and forced to live the role. In any event, prior to reaching this monumental conclusion, the reviewer, Eric Henderson by name, really goes to town, to wit, "Light and flaky, with all the nutritional value of any food typically given said descriptors," "self-aware of its inherent stupidity," "its white elephant"—ooh, you've clearly read your Manny Farber, aren't you a smart one?—"eagerness manifests itself as a direct riposte to art," "overbearing Broadway titans Rogers [sic] and Hammerstein's most rudimentary song score," okay, whoa, hold on there, Hoss. "Rudimentary?" Oh really.
This, you see, is what we in the biz call "overreaching." If the "awful" (Henderson's word again) songs of The Sound of Music are "rudimentary," they are rudimentary in a way that requires total mastery—both verbal and musical—to pull off. You try and write a song both as catchy and as multiform as "Do-Re-Mi" some time, using only one octave of the C scale. Also, John Coltrane didn't take "My Favorite Things" and use it to completely transform modern jazz pretty much overnight because he wanted to demonstrate to the squares how he could make a stick-up-its-ass show tune swing, or some such thing; he did it because, well, as he said, "This waltz is fantastic: when you play it slowly, it has an element of gospel that’s not at all displeasing; when you play it quickly, it possesses other undeniable qualities. It’s very interesting to discover a terrain that renews itself according to the impulse you give it." Henderson, who in a notice about a Glenn Gould documentary shrugged that Gould was "a pianist to be reckoned with," might be one of those fellows who just says "whatever" at the mention of Coltrane, so I don't imagine this citation will impress him much. But really, there's so much that one can easily get away with when drubbing The Sound of Music; why extend one's ambitions into areas where trouble may follow?
Actual fans of the film, by the way, should be informed that the new Blu-ray edition really is awfully pretty in the way the film is pretty.