Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Around the World in 80 Days

Around the World in 80 Days; adventure / comedy, USA, 1956; D: Michael Anderson, S: David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton, Robert Morley, John Gielgud, Peter Lorre
London, 19th Century. Passepartout has just been hired as a butler by an English gentleman, Phileas Fogg, an already his boss starts acting srangely when claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. Fogg even makes a £20,000 bet with several skeptical fellow members of his London gentlemen's club, the Reform club. The two of them start their journey in a balloon and land in Spain. From there on they move to Egypt, then India (where they save Princess Aouda), Hong Kong, Japan and USA. During all that time, Inspector Fix mistakenly thinks Fogg is a bank robber and follows him, eventually arresting him in Europe. Fogg thinks he came one day too late to win the bet, but then Passepartout finds out that, by crossing the International Date Line, they have gained a day. There is still time to reach the Reform Club and win the bet, which he does.
The reputation of Oscars and the Golden Globes was never really trust worthy, but rarely did they offer so little when they awarded Michael Anderson's "Around the World in 80 Days", a derivative, saccharin, dry adventure film from 1956 (ignoring much better films made that year, like the classic western "The Searchers", which wasn't even nominated). That winner of 5 Oscars and 2 Golden Globes, including in the category for best picture, seems dated and stiff today because the story was relying more on opulent costumes and exotic landscapes and less on characters, making the spirit of Jules Verne's original book lost in superficial elements. Of all the characters, only Passepartout seems real. David Niven and Shirley Maclaine, altghough underused, are excellent though. "Around the World in 80 Days" is a solid travel guide film, here and there you can find a few amusing scenes, like the one in which Passepartout has to fight a bull as a matador or the one in which Fogg wants a gun duel with one American in a passenger train (!), and the number of stars in cameo roles in amazing (Marlene Dietrich as a prostitute in San Francisco, Buster Keaton as a train conductor), but the 3 hour long story really seems overstretched.


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