Having experimented with several other genre films (most of them successful but not the period drama Daisy Miller which immediately preceded this movie) Peter Bogdanovich decided next to tackle the movie musical, a genre that had pretty much been given up for dead in 1975 (though Barbra Streisand could still bring in crowds for Funny Lady and later A Star Is Born). Rather than commissioning an original score, Bogdanovich set his story in the 1930s and used the song catalog of Cole Porter in crafting his sophisticated musical trifle At Long Last Love. Cut unmercifully before its disastrous theatrical release, the film is now being seen in its definitive director’s cut. It’s not an undiscovered gem, but there are certainly pleasures to be found among the dross that sometimes weighs down this musical bauble.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 2 Hr. 3 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 06/04/2013
Bored but wealthy New York playboy Michael Oliver Pritchard III (Burt Reynolds) meets musical comedy star Kitty O’Kelly (Madeline Kahn) and falls for her because she makes him laugh. Coincidentally, penniless heiress Brooke Carter (Cybill Shepherd) meets Italian gambler Johnny Spanish (Duilio Del Prete) at the racetrack where she loses her last few hundred dollars and he makes a bundle. When Brooke and Johnny attend Kitty’s opening night and Brooke and Kitty are reunited as old school chums, Oliver invites them all to his country home. While attending a party together, the couples switch partners, and Kitty and Johnny are so hurt about being abandoned by their amours that they concoct a plan to pretend to be madly in love with one another to make Brook and Ollie jealous. But the trick might just lead to the real thing as feelings become tangled with all of them.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Peter Bogdanovich’s gossamer thread of a story is actually acted out in the film’s opening credit sequence by a pair of waltzing couples on a music box (one of several moments of real chic which he manages), and in spite of eighteen song numbers interspersed among the four principals and three supporting players, the story remains decidedly too thin to prop up this much song and dance. The director is also at the mercy of having two of his four leads not up to the full demands of a musical comedy (which the director insisted was to be sung live while filming as many early sound musicals were). To accomplish this successfully requires not only song and dance skills but that necessary but indefinable element, charm. Madeline Kahn certainly has it in spades: at ease with joking, singing, dancing, and ad-libbing (which the director seems to have encouraged even when the comments spill into other people’s singing). And despite language barriers which he handles rather astutely, Duilio Del Prete has it, too, even if his singing occasionally drifts a little below pitch. But the director’s two top-billed leads are both lacking in some essentials: Burt Reynolds confuses nonchalance with sophistication and ends up as something of a cipher while his lack of sustain in his singing makes all of his songs sound unimpressively the same. Cybill Shepherd has the better voice of the two by far: she can maneuver from her chest to her head voice, but a lack of training makes those leaps unwieldy and unattractive sometimes, and she’s completely lacking the kind of charm that would make her spoiled, snippy heiress character endearing rather than tiresome. The two supporting performers John Hillerman as Pritchard’s valet and Eileen Brennan as Brooke’s maid certainly carry a good deal of the droll, dry comedy of the piece, and their extended “But in the Morning, No” which starts and stops about three times during the course of the film while she pursues him and weakens his resolve is one of the movie's highlights.
The trouble with writing a jukebox musical is that songs from a catalog must be fit into a new narrative even though they weren’t originally written for it, and sometimes the fit isn’t particularly smooth. Each of the leads gets an introductory song, and each conveys the personality of its performer rather brilliantly: “Down in the Depths” for Kahn, “Tomorrow” for Del Prete, “Which” for Shepherd, and “Poor Millionaire” for Reynolds. Later numbers, however, like “Well, Did You Ev’ah” at the party and “I Get a Kick Out of You” which was an obvious gift from the director to his star Shepherd (they were an item at the time) since the rest of the numbers seem scrupulously divided among the leads to favor none of them aren’t as carefully integrated. Since most of these Cole Porter songs are acknowledged classics, it’s terrific that for the first time in movies we get to hear all the verses and encores of some of the classic tunes like “Friendship” and “You’re the Top.” And in the film’s very best sequence, each of the four stars gets to warble a different verse of “At Long Last Love” on the morning after their house party, a rare instance of chic staging from the director and unselfconscious performing from each of the actors.
Because it’s set in the 1930s, the film’s Art Deco look in fashions and furnishings is a delicious feast for the eyes: everything’s in shades of black, white, gray, and cream which almost makes this a black and white film in color. But in the final analysis, despite all these expensive trimmings, this two-plus hour film with such a slight bittersweet story and almost twenty musical numbers is just too top heavy for its own good. Perhaps if some of the singing were better, perhaps if the actors were better dancers and could really get into a production number to offer some variety from the few slap-happy taps that they attempt sometimes, the film might be more appealing. But as it now stands, it’s a beautifully wrapped box with only a small, rather inexpressive present inside.
The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Much of the film looks beautiful with very good sharpness, accurate color, and flesh tones that look very inviting. Blacks are nicely rendered, and all the white in the production design never blooms. But there are some soft shots, and there’s one sequence that looks different from the others where darker color timing crushes blacks and increases the grain level appreciably. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix combines the dialogue, music, and sound effects expertly into a single track that features very good fidelity and no age-related artifacts to spoil the sound quality.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Theatrical Trailer (3:25, SD)
6-Page Booklet: the Twilight Time-like insert includes lovely color stills from the movie, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s essay which offers an appreciation for the film’s accomplishments.
This is the most complete rendition of At Long Last Love that I’ve ever experienced. Every scrap of music I’ve ever heard seems to have been included in this director’s cut. While the film won’t likely be celebrated as a lost cinematic masterpiece, it’s lovely to have the movie looking and sounding as good as it’s possible for it to be.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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