With pop culture apparently suffering from a retro epidemic lately, today’s 60th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain provides a chance to look back at a film that was ahead of its time in the way that it, too, looked back. Still fresh and charming in present-day viewings, Singin’delivered a sophisticated take on a tremendous transition in moviemaking that had happened decades before its release. But unlike the recent Oscars’ slate of history-fetishizing films—The Artist, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris among them—it didn’t romanticize the past but rather voyaged happily forward. […]
Beyond the actual backdrop of an industry in flux, Singin’ in the Rain’s jokes and light parodies of actors and Hollywood culture are still surprisingly insightful and effective. There’s the dopey screen siren thinking that she’s in a relationship with her co-star because she read it in a gossip magazine. There’s Kathy Selden’s (Debbie Reynolds) attempt to insult the cocky movie star with her emphatic declaration that “if you’ve seen one movie, you’ve seen ‘em all.” And there’s the brilliant segment where Don Lockwood recounts his rise to fame, telling his fans that he was trained at Juilliard and brought up on Shaw and Molière, while we in the audience are treated to an amusing simultaneous montage revealing that he actually cut his teeth through thankless beer-hall performances and dangerous stunt work.
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