A Chorus Line

  • Title: A Chorus Line
  • Director: Richard Attenborough
  • Date: 1985
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures
  • Genre: Musical, Drama
  • Cast: Michael Douglas
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

A Chorus Line is quite possibly the first musical I ever saw – on film. I remember watching this movie in high school and enjoying it immensely. The film still has a lot of pull, because it’s also very dramatic. Michael Douglas plays a masochistic choreographer – who subjects sixteen dancers to the audition of their lives. He sits in the shadows, unseen by the dancers on stage as they pour out their hearts – each telling very personal stories. Some are funny, some sad, some will even make you cry. This film has a sense of depth and feeling to it.

There are a lot of edits and cuts in the dances – close-ups of the dancer’s faces, different angles, and the use of a lot of mirrors. To quote Ginger Rogers:  “Do they think I dance with my face?” But, filming with mirrors is always tricky – the mirrors and cameras and other equipment have to be carefully placed to avoid cameras, mikes, and lights appearing in the mirrors. At least some of the dancing is shown full frame. I just wish the editors would trust that an entire dance can hold the audience’s attention – if shown from start to finish without close-ups! As it is, though some of the more dramatic conversations work – in a musical, it’s all about the dance and the lyrics. Though to give them credit – each of the dancers that gets a starring number – is expressing themselves, their feelings about dance, and their experiences in life.

Musical Numbers (Guessing on the Titles, here — my DVD copy does not have a list of musical numbers)

  • I Can do That
  • Everything was Beautiful at the Ballet
  • Hello, Love
  • Surprise
  • Nothing
  • Tits and Ass (Dance 10, Looks 3)
  • I’m a Dancer
  • One Singular Sensation
  • What I Did for Love
  • One Singular Sensation (Reprise)

One unusual thing for a film about making a musical – we never actually see the finished musical Broadway play. The film’s plot is about casting the chorus. And the final reprise number, of  “One Singular Sensation”, with its ever-expanding group of dancers – goes back to the audience seeing the chorus as a mass of moving bodies, not as individuals. Whereas, as I’ve said, the film’s content takes the time to make the chorus members real people – with dreams, ambitions, problems, etc.

Recommendation:  See it – at least once.
Rating:  3.5
Next Film:  Citizen Kane