Victor/Victoria (SE) / A, B+
Warner/1982/133/ANA 2,35

     Victor/Victoria may well be gifted farceur Blake Edwards' most wholly satisfying flick. It opens in a very classy way with lovely light Henry Mancini movie music. Edwards' visual sense for comedy is unfailingly hilarious. His cutting maximizes the comic effect. Here's a director who knows his way around comedy, backwards and forwards. He is a genius. The comic pratfalls are choreographed with the inspiration of the great silent comics.
     The central comic conceit of Victor/Victoria is a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. Down and out Brit singer Victoria Grant has reached the final stages of desperation as she hunts for a gig in glittering 1920s Paris. Gay night club performer Carroll (Toddy) Todd is letting his love life undermine his career. With snow flakes falling gently on a Paris street, Toddy peers into a restaurant window and spies Victoria. When Toddy joins her at table, its the beginning of a perfect friendship.

Dinner for two is on Victoria. ©Warner

     When inspiration ceases Toddy and he suddenly sees the possibilities for Victoria's new career unfold in his imagination, it's pure screen magic.  Of course, it's not exactly what Victoria imagined. Add a tough Chicago night club owner with a gangster reputation, a daffy moll, a beefy bodyguard, and the ingredients add up to one hilarious moment after another.
     The restaurant scene is a perfect example of Edwards' brilliant comic touch. The lines and situations are funny, the actors sublime, but the cutting enhances the effect. The timing is perfect. And isn't it wonderful that Toddy asks Victoria "What ever happened to the Bath Opera company?" as they sit face to face in a hot bath tub. It's a small detail, but adds richness and texture to the screenplay. A good an example of the wonderful comic writing is the first time the meatball comes up. The second time the meat ball comes it's played with by Toddy and it's very funny again, and the third time the meat ball comes up is an intimate, almost sentimental way, and it works again: you see, the meat ball is used like a juggler's ball, lightly kept airborne with perfect rhythms by Edwards. Take another scene to savvy the depth of the Edwards genius. Norma Cassady and Toddy are in a back room at the party. Check out the lighting: Norma is shot in a white light that emphasizes her  pearlescence skin and the whiteness of the bleached blonde hair. At the same time, Toddy has a pink glow on him. Here he is telling her that he's gay and he's got the pink light on him. It's just another brilliant touch that likely goes without obvious notice but helps create the feelings Edwards wants and adds layers to the comedy. The comic choreography is almost done like dance. It's beautiful comic movement and it is musical.  The music integrates with delightful farce/ballet in the hotel to brilliant effect. Sly notes echo ginger silent steps.
     Edwards casting acumen is surgically hilarious. Robert Preston is truly miraculous in the role of Toddy. He's graceful, he's smooth, he's having the time of his acting career. Just appreciate the way Robert Preston savors his dialogue. He delivers his lines with savory relish. I can't give Preston enough credit for the inspired acting as Toddy. This is up there with the best work Julie Andrews has done. She is an absolutely terrific comedienne and Victoria gives her the opportunity to combine her singing and comic talent in a cunningly delicious performance. You've gotta belief that any character that would sell herself for one solitary tough meat ball is worthy of great admiration. The virile, manly James Garner is the perfect choice as King Marchand. When he doubts his virility, even for a moment, it plays much funnier because of that screen presence. Alex Karas, the former Detroit Lions lineman, as King Marchand's bodyguard is a droll choice by Edwards. And Lesley Ann Warren is a explosion of blonde bimbosity. Graham Stark is terrific as the waiter. Peter Arne as night club owner Labisse reminds one of Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther series.
     The wonderful art deco production design glistens like the sparkling dialogue. Victor/Victoria as such a natural flow that it moves from one section to the next so naturally that you don't even realize a new act has begun. It is such a great roadmap for comedy. The choreography on the Jazz Hot Lady number almost looks like it could have been done by Bob Fosse. It's really very good. Mancini's music consistently moves in rye rhythms embellishing the comedy but never upstaging it.
     The majority of image on Victor/Victoria is happily in excellent shape, there's a slight vertical scratch in the wonderful restaurant scene and a few specs of dirt on the elements, but the majority of the image is in very fine shape. Color saturation is excellent.  Perhaps it might have been a tad sharper. Black levels are excellent. Lighting details are very well delivered. Good overall light output and contrast range is wide. The remastered Dolby Digital 5:1 audio is very clean.
     Andrews and Edwards are a terrific audience on the special edition commentary. They laugh at the right moments and it's clear they are enjoying themselves. If not perfectly consistent, it's a rich and warm commentary, generous in its sharing the joy of the experience of Victor/Victoria. There's a very funny moment in the hotel after the triumphant debut with Victoria and Toddy in bed singing and sure enough it seems like Preston add-libs the best line, and it's nice to have the confirmation on the commentary.


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