For Reel

Swing Time (1936)
February 6, 2016, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Stevens
5 Stars
Swing TimeOf all the Astaire & Rogers musicals, Swing Time has been the most emphatically embraced by the dance community, with Arlene Croce referring to it as the “miracle of the film series,” and Robert Gottlieb adding, “In no other film in the world is dancing used so persuasively as a simulacrum of adult passion and serious sexual commitment.” Previous installments of the series toyed audiences with the anticipation of the dance partners finally taking the stage, but in Swing Time the dancing serves as the dramatic stakes–Astaire’s Lucky Garnett, doomed to marry the wrong woman, mourns that he will, “never dance again.” Dance numbers in these films aren’t simply–as has often been lazily assumed–a substitution for sexuality, but a sacred ritual of courtship, the most immaculate form of communication (it is no coincidence that Lucky finds himself unable to explain himself with words throughout the picture). Swing Time‘s climactic action involves Astaire losing his orchestra and doomed to wed a woman who doesn’t dance, thereby ensuring that the eventual fulfillment of his romantic promise with Rogers also restores music and dancing to the picture. In utilizing dance as a necessary means of expression, no other film in the Astaire & Rogers cycle creates a better argument for their craft as an art form. Featuring the memorable geometric surrealism of “Bojangles of Harlem” and the duo’s most sumptuous ballroom number in “Never Gonna Dance” (which brilliantly reprises the entire plot of the film), Swing Time is the most seductive and accomplished of the team’s pictures, and it is the best argument for their unusual genius.

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