Monday, August 3, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

What's Up, Doc?; Comedy, USA, 1972; D: Peter Bogdanovich, S: Ryan O'Neal, Barbra Streisand, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars

San Francisco. The coiled musicologist Howard and his fiance Eunice settle in a hotel and get ready to attend a musicologist conference where they hope to win a grant for his theory that cave men used rocks as music. However, Howard is stalked by a beautiful girl, Judy, who presents herself as Eunice at the conference, thus creating an argument between him and the real Eunice. After the hotel room gets set on fire, Howard is asked to leave, but stars falling for Judy. Further complications occur when agents mistake his bag for an other where secret government documents are held. After a wild chase, they all land on court and it is reveled that Judy is the daughter of the judge. Eunice leaves Howard, but he falls in love with Judy.

The 4th film by director Peter Bogdanovich (and the second one after his breakthrough "Last Picture Show"), "What's Up, Doc?" is a weary cult comedy that makes homages to "Bringing Up Baby" on every step. Slapstick and screwball comedy were never the high point of humor, yet thanks to Bogdanovich's competent direction the film as a whole is surprisingly charming, which speaks a lot about his talent since the story could have easily turned unbearably irritating in some lesser director's hand. The story indeed isn't even important since the film is an unbound ode to wild life and happiness, embodied in Judy (wonderful Barbra Streisand) who turns Howard's stiff life into an exciting adventure, extracting much of humor from their misadventures, regardless of the fact that it isn't that especially funny. One of the best jokes comes swiftly, when the secret agent who is "secretly" following the suspicious man with the bag, is "disguised" as a caddy, but after a long way he figures he doesn't need that much heavy golf clubs carrying with him, so he throws a few in a garbage can, while Bogdanovich's sixth sense for directing comes to full light in the especially well crafted chase sequence - in one scene, Howard and Judy descend from a hill on a delivery bike, followed by three cars, all passing by two workers holding glass on the street, but as they get tired of climbing uphill, they return down, followed by the cars who crash on a latter, catapulting another worker directly into the glass, breaking it. In the end, the film isn't that big of a wisdom, yet it still has good spirit and is amusing.


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