The Court Jester: Aesthetic Analysis Of A Film “Tails of lizards, ears of swine, chicken gizzards soaked in brine, now thine eyes and mine entwine, thy will is broken, thou art MINE! ” ((Melvin Frank, Norman Panama The Court jester) Now you will give me an A on the paper and all the rest of my papers and I will pass the class like that *snap* gulp…. Now all joking aside the film The Court Jester Made in 1957 and Staring Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, and Angela Lansbury (B) is a marvelous little treat of a film, which also had a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a comedy or musical.
It’s writing, musical numbers, performances and style are defiantly its strong points while its action and editing are where it’s lacking. Let’s begin the Aesthetic Analysis of the film The Court Jester: This is the basic plot of the movie. The evil usurper Rodrick slaughters the royal family and takes the throne, yet there is a royal child with a purple pimpernel located on his posterior that poses a problem to the king. In the forest there is a group led by the Black Fox who opposes the king and has the child.
So Hubert Hawkins (Danny kay) and Commander Gene who are charged with protecting him and taking the child with the purple pimpernel to the safety of an Abby. As the story continues to unravel they have a plan to put the child on the thorn. All they need is a key from the king to gain access to the castle. Gene knockouts a court jester who is headed toward the castle to perform for the king. Hawkins then dawns the role of “Giacomo, king of jesters and jester of a king” to sneak in and get the key from the king’s room.
Shenanigans ensue full of mistaken identities, assassinations, and a couple of duels later the child is put back on the thorn and everyone lives happily ever after The film starts with the Danny Kaye dancing and singing a song to the opening credits dressed in a jester’s outfit, however he is not simply standing still, he begins to, in a way, interact with the credits when they appear above him he collapses onto the floor as to avoid being crushed as well as making certain names ‘appear with his Caine.
His goal is not only to entertain us with a lovely song and quips about the Script saying both Shakespeare and Francis bacon if asked who wrote it would say “get outta dere. ” The song sets your expectations for the rest of the film, he mentions fair maidens, brave knights, and villainous villains. Even the shot itself gives a medieval feel having a fancy boarder reminiscent of a medieval story book (http://www. arthistory. upenn. edu/fallo5/100302. html). This is a very deliberated choice on the part of the filmmaker to establish the feeling of the film.
This feeling persists throughout the rest of the movie from the castle to the sets and the costumes the feeling of the film is a story book feel. This does not mean that it feels real, all of the sets were built on “two separate Paramount sound stages” (http://www. tcm. com/tcmdb/title/4501/TheCourt-Jester/notes. html). This is not a bad thing it actually gives the film a charm to it. The film comes across as an homage to the old robin hood and adventure films, Hawkins even says that he joined the rebels because he wanted to steal from the rich and give to the poor.
This gives the film a very strong style. This film is dripping in the 1950’s mentality and flavor. From the sets to the acting even the characters, Gene is the perfect example. In the beginning of the movie she is presented as a commander who is this warrior who does not need a man to define her but in only two scenes later she is swooned by Hawkins charm and spends the rest of the movie as a wench. Even down to the final action sequence her job is to stand behind the man and let him take care of it.
To the films defense there is a scene where Hawkins is showing the purple pimpernel on the royal posterior to the recruits and Hawkins keeps insisting that “Don’t you think it really would, look better if this kind of thing were done by a woman? ” and the captain responds “I’ve told you repeatedly, Hawkins. Each one serves as best he can. ” So they try to show that they are being progressive, but in two scenes later she is doe-eyed and falling all over him. Though they do show her as a strong heroin she plays second banana to the male leads. The characters are not very deep and follow a pattern.
You have the evil king, a wicked adviser, a fair damsel, and a hero who starts as a loser and ends up saving the day… somehow. This does not mean they are not entertaining characters, the performances are quite interesting and engaging to watch. The dialogue is fun and fast for an example: “who could forget what the Doge did, and what did the duke do? Well the Doge did what a Doge does, when a Doge dose his duty to his duke. ” This type of dialogue is throughout the part and the delivery of these lines makes the movie entertaining to watch.
The best character in the movie has to be Hawkins, most of the quips and funny moments come from his delivery and his physical action. When the witch Griselda casts her spell and commands him to be “figure of romance, of spirit and action, but at the same time humble and tender. You are a man of iron with the soul of a poet. You are adventurous, gay, but with a lovers brooding melancholy’ you see his expression change within a second of her stating it and when he is in the chambers of the princess and the king arrives, with every snap of their fingers he transforms from the timid Hawkins to the Fierce Giacomo and back again.
Something to note that was unique to the film was that all of the musical numbers are explained, what that means with the exception of the final song, all of the musical numbers are not just typical, ‘oh were singing because that’s what you do in a musical. All of the songs had a reason for being sung. Another thing that was interesting to note, On the original soundtrack there are 12 songs listed, however there are only 5 songs performed in the movie and that is stretching it considering the last song sung lasts for about thirty seconds and is almost exactly the same as the first one(http://www. llmusic. com/album/the-court-jestermw0000115051).
Compare that to another musical staring Danny kay White Christmas where there were 10 songs on the track and 10 songs were used (http://www. allmusic. com/album/ white-christmas-original-soundtrack-mw0000851320). In spite of that, this is not a horrendous decision because you remember each song and there were no songs out of place. The effects of the movie are not that great. That is to say that this film came out in the late fifties and the choices show.
When Hawkins is entranced and swings to the princess room there is a cut to a model of him swinging across the castle wall fine the movie is older understandable, but when he leaves all they do is reverse the shot that is all and somehow he finds himself in the villain’s room even though architecturally it does not make sense. However, the best example of how the effects are in this movie is near the end. Hawkins and his band of little people performers fights and defeats the castle guard.
Their answer to get the guards out of the castle is for the little people lay on the stairs and pass the defeated guards, using their feet, up the stairs then into a catapult where the guards get tossed off the side of the castle into the water below. When the guards are being passed up you can see the string holding the clearly not real dummies over to the catapult, then whenever the lever is pulled it cuts to a shot above the water where it feels and looks like the dummies were just tossed of a boat 2 feet away. This definitely shows the age of the film Another thing that shows the age of the film is its editing.
Nothing stands out as particularly impressive about it, in fact there is a scene where they just reverse the footage for no real reason other than for comedic effect. It is when Hawkins is being knighted, they are knighting him so that Sir Griswold can fight him and kill him. The King decides that it is taking too long and needs to be speed up and in the chaos that ensues the knights walk forward and then backward again they play the footage forward and then just reverse it. This is a very jarring edit because of the speed of the change. Finally, the action of the film is fun.
No it doesn’t look especially realistic and there is not much that constitutes as action however when there is action it can be entertainin not because of the action itself. When the final battle happens it is against Danny kay and the king’s royal adviser Ravenhurst. It is obvious that Ravenhurst is a far superior swordsman than Hawkins but Hawkins is put into a trance by Griselda and when her fingers snap he becomes the best swordsman in the world so in the ensuing battle every time they snap their fingers the flow of the battle changes.
The fighting itself is not that interesting, the swards look like a child’s plaything but it is moments that are fun, like when Hawkins is drinking a cup of water while fighting Ravenhurst and then a second latter he is waving his arms like a mad man trying to fend him off again. Those moments are few and far between, and mostly when there is any action occurring it is comically bad.
A film is not defined by the action but the wit of the characters and your enjoyment of what is happening on screen, that is why the transformers series are so bad. Is this the tightest movie ever? Not at all the ending is proof of that, what happens is that the baby is shown and everyone sings into the camera fundamentally saying goodbye. It is despite all that a very enjoyable movie and that is what it was meant to be, an adventure story that tries to and succeeds in making you feel like life couldn’t possibly better be.