Instant Classic

Paramount Theatre's Summer 2000 Series


D: Robert Wise; with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr, Daniel Truhitte, Heather Menzies, Angela Cartwright, Nicholas Hammond. (G, 177 min.)

The Riviera Theatre was a palace of dreams -- a one-screen, velvet-curtained, marquee-blinking cavern of film fantasy where, as a wee child, I first saw the timeless family classic The Sound of Music, a three-hour ode to the immaculate concepts of honor, love, and the Austrian way. Back in the late Sixties, there were no movie megaplexes with exploding bloodfests playing right next door to Captain Kangaroo, no R-rated comedians making R-rated films marketed to R-rated 10-year-old boys, and, most importantly, no pervasive backlash against innocence like there is today. It's no wonder, then, that TSOM smashed all previous box office records (including that of Gone With the Wind) and played in the theatres forever. Some may scoff at the treacly story of the nun gone AWOL, but the more devout know better: Seemingly a celebration of the power of music, upon deeper inspection (rumination will require multiple viewings), the film reveals itself to be a cleverly disguised eroticism of innocence. From the twirling alpine Julie Andrews at the beginning to the crane shot of Maria's white, white wedding dress train near the beginning of the end -- from the soaking wet Liesl coming in from "Going on Seventeen" out in the rain with proto-Aryan boy toy Rolf to the soaking wet Trapp kids festooned in curtain lederhosen while getting back to their simian roots in some large trees, this film drips with the ache of chastity at the end of its rope. When the Captain chooses Maria (the ex-nun ... hello?) over that bitch slut the Baroness, do you actually think he is thinking of his kids? No, he is listening to that little voice in his head, the same one that plagued him all those years at sea, "Choose the virgin! Choose the virgin!!!" Certainly, this kind of tawdry read of the film isn't gospel. Perhaps the innocence it portrays is genuine, a sign of the times in which it was created. Then again, by the time I was in junior high, the Riviera Theatre had become a porno palace. (6/30-7/3)

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