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« Visual Index ~ The Sound of Music (1965) "Best Shots" | Main | Top Ten: Horny For Horned Creatures »
Tuesday
Mar032015

Introducing... Fraulein Maria

Season 6 of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" Begins!

The original premise of the Best Shot series was a short essay on ONE screen capture from a film, "best" being in the eye of the beholder, and thus the fascination since movies are communal but we see them individually. Everyone cheats with multiple shots and full movie reviews -  I'm the worst ! -- so In an altogether herculean effort to pare it back to the premise (*he begins to sweat*) I will only allow myself two screenshots today and one topic (gulp). For my sanity I've restricted myself to the film's first half, pre-intermission. We can always write about The Sound of Music again. 

Let's talk about the act of opening your heart up wide to fall in love, with all the risks that that entails... such as loving a movie that sophisticated cinephiles are not supposed to love, and loving a stranger who you don't yet understand. [More...]

Maria falls in love.

Though we spend the whole movie looking at Maria this is one of the film's only shots that is not from Maria's point of view... or world view, rather. We're seeing Maria, quite emphatically, from The Baroness's point of view (Eleanor Parker, killing it as she is prone to do). The shot is so observationally intimate that Julie Andrews doesn't even seem aware of the camera. This is not something one can or should usually say about the great musical entertainers since they're always endearingly putting on a show. The whole movie is beautifully lit by the Oscar nominated Ted D. McCord (he lost to the work in Doctor Zhivago, 1965's other box office behemoth) but it's particularly smart that the shadows are so soft in the first half of the film before the Nazi's take control and inky darkness descends.

The romanticized softness is apt since the first act is all about falling in love: Maria with the children and life outside the Abbey; the children with their new governness and their father; The Captain with Maria to his surprise, and with his own children and music again; Liesl with her telegram boy. But three grand reciprocal romances are already firmly established with just the opening scene, quite possibly the most iconic opening that any film's been blessed with. 

Best Shot - the whole sequence is iconic for a reason. I was unable to deny it.

i go to the hills when my heart is lonely 
i know I will hear what I've heard before
my heart will be blessed with the sound of music
and i'll sing once more 

When stage musicals move to the screen they're often asked to "open up" and you get outdoor scenes for no justified reason. With The Sound of Music, it's always been difficult to imagine it ever being a stage musical at all (even if you've seen it on stage!) since its power is so elemental in nature and the majesty of Austria is such an important character. In fact, it's a full two minutes and twenty seconds before we see a human at all, the tiny figure of Maria appears spinning in the grass, arms outstretched to welcome the beauty in. Until then it's just the sounds and sights of nature and majestic aerial photography of mountains and clouds (shout out to Clouds of Sils Maria opening soon!) to set the mood.

The shot I've chosen is one of her mid-song dashes when the spirit overcomes her again. By the end of the sequence when Maria's racing to the abbey, title cards and music blaring, you're already a goner if your heart is open, if you're willing to get dizzy and spin with this singing would-be nun. First there's the love of country, so crucial to the arc of the musical at the dawn of World War II. (In this case it's Austria but any paradise lost can be mentally transposed). Then the love of music, from the swelling orchestra to that perfect bell-like voice, one of the three greatest instruments in cinema history. And last but never least, love of moviegoers to movie star. Julie Andrews was already an enormous star thanks to Mary Poppins the year before, and audiences couldn't resist her sugar rush energy and that pure guileless face, perfect for the heightened genre on which she made her name. The love is reciprocal; Julie's Maria Von Trapp will never stop blessing audience's hearts with the sound of music. The movie is fifty years old this week but what's another birthday when you're already immortal?

Best Shots Elsewhere - Check out this gallery of sixteen other great shots with links to multiple fine articles. I always learn so much reading all of these. 

NEXT TUESDAY: Paris is Burning (available on Netflix Instant Watch) our first documentary in the series and one of the greatest ever made.

 

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Reader Comments (20)

Beautiful shots! If anything this is a beautiful film filled with some very memorable scenes and performances. Eleanor Parker was so great in this I wish she had gotten a nomination for this. The Baroness is unjustly forgotten in so many of these Sound of Music conversation. I'd even throw Chris Plummer into the mix for his screen presence alone. Made me wish he'd more of a leading man career given how great he was on screen around that time with Roman Empire and Daisy Clover. Julie Andrews is really something else. Very few sings like she does she must be one of the most affable personalities in the business.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterguest

Ok. This is going to sound dumb. I know. I plan to participate for the first time this year. So, how exactly do I "link up." Is it as simple as putting a link to your blog in my post? Then your stats will show that I've "linked up"? Please imagine I am a 70 year old grandmother if it makes this question more bearable.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentershawshank

Love! So glad I was able to play along this time, and since Paris is Burning is on Instant, I'll try and get that in before next week!!!

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

It's **incredibly** difficult for me to choose one shot and not be long winded when this series included movies dear to my heart like The Color Purple or The Talented Mr. Ripley. I've been getting better at it though.

I'm also looking forward to doing Paris is Burning since RPDR constantly mentions it and but I still haven't made the time to see it. Now i have an excuse!

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Nathanniel, this was lovely.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

shawshank -- you can either post a comment telling us where the link is or tweet it out or email me at filmexperience@gmail.com . if you don't draw my attention i might miss it.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Okay I don't want this to take away from the film itself but for the last thirty years whenever my sister and I were on road trips we would always sing "the HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH the sound of MUSIC" everytime a dead animal body was by the road. It would help us all in the vehicle remember to look up and enjoy the hills rather than the gross dead animal on the pavement. It always took us to a happy spot. I'm 36 now and I still do this. At first we started singing "raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens" but we stopped that quickly when the obvious was dead on the side of the road.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChrisConcert

Love both of those choices. Those opening minutes set such a tone for the rest of the film and apparently took quite some time to get since the helicopter that came in to capture Julie's turn kept knocking her on her butt as it got close. But it was worth those bumps and bruises.

My choice would be during the secret dance in the pavilion between Liesl and Rolfe. In the middle of the dance when they are silhouetted against the glass with the rain pouring down the deep focus that catches all the colors of the exterior lights, her dress and the reflections plus the joy with which they are dancing is just amazing. It also informs the scenes with Rolfe later when that happy boy disappears into rigid doctrine.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

joel-- i was SO into that scene when I was a kid. now i'm more into the adult love story. and the baroness.

chris -- !!!!

March 3, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm curious to know what your other two of the three great instruments in cinema history are! I assume you mean voices, and singer-actress voices at that. Might I guess Judy and Barbra..? TELL.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Nathaniel-Eleanor Parker as the Baroness is everything! If I had my way she'd be the winner of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year (incredible that she didn't even get a nomination!) She could be her own separate series of best shots since she is an immaculate showstopper whenever she enters a scene.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Jeremy -- yes. that's obviously the holy trinity of actress/musical stars

March 3, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Eleanor Parker was much more interesting in the film than the nominated Peggy Wood. I'm guessing she was only nominated because she could reach those high notes?

I wouls have to pick one of the scenes from the "Do Re Mi" sequence, like the fountain shot.

Googling it gets you lots of photos of people imitating that scene: https://www.google.com/search?q=sound+of+music+do+re+mi+fountain&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=BWX2VPCoKs23ogT-nYGYBw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg&biw=1569&bih=737

It has joy, choreography, singing, and the spectacular vistas of Austria.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

nathaniel - thank you so much for the return of hit me with your best shot! i feel like running to the hills and singing my little heart out! and it seems you and i had the same pick with julie leaning against that wall in love-struck tranquility...

and joel6 - i second everything you said about the baroness! everything.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

abstew -- that's not the one i picked. It's just the illustration of my topic of falling in love.

March 3, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

That opening scene is just incredible. Iconic for a reason. The purest expression of joy in all of cinema next to Gene Kelly Singin' in the Rain. I could have easily chosen that first helicopter shot of Julie, but decided to go with my other favorite shot because I thought everyone else would choose it.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Also, here's my entry (I emailed it late): http://dancindanonfilm.blogspot.com/2015/03/hit-me-with-your-best-shot-sound-of.html

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Julie was truly amazing and quite flawless in TSOM. I remember being about 10 or 12 and wishing very hard that she would win the Oscar that year. It was between the two British Julie's! We know who won and that is OK. Christie is magnificent as well. In the end...Julie is Maria and Barbra is Fanny Brice. Even if they are not that much like the original real people. Well, maybe Barbra is Fanny Brice as Barbra...

Anyway, speaking of Julie and Barbra being in the holy trinity of actress/musical stars,can you imagine if they were switched at birth. Just try to comprehend Julie being raised in Brooklyn and Barbra raised across the pond. Talk about different environments! Kinda mind blowing if you think about it.

They are both supremely talented and gifted but are on two different ends of the personality spectrum. Of course they were both born and bred exactly where they should have been. Love em both!

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Nathaniel-Not sure if you're still taking suggestions for upcoming Best Shots but I caught Far from the Madding Crowd with Julie Christie and Alan Bates the other day on TCM and while I was watching I kept thinking how perfect it would be for the series especially with the Carey Mulligan version due to hit theatres this year. The Nicolas Roeg cinematography is so gorgeous and the film is readily available.

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

joel -- i've never seen it but i will add it to the suggestions list (i do keep one)

March 4, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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