Singing in the Rain: cinema talks about cinema

It’s dark, it rains and all run to shelter, but he dances and sings in the rain, plays and smiles happy. The reason? Simple, he’s in love. This scene represents the quintessential description of a mood of bliss and although it goes back to decades ago, it preserves its essence intact. Singing in the Rain is a beautiful love story, born from a chance encounter as unlikely, between the silent film star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and the aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) and raised in Hollywood Studios. The protagonist, however, is not the sentimental story, but the cinema that tells itself and its background in a crucial moment of its history, that is the transition from mute to sound, after the success of The Jazz singer Alan Crosland.

He tells how many, considered to be great actors in a cinema made up of expressions, gestures, captions and atmospheric music still played live, with the advent of sound, do not reveal themselves to the height. With intelligence and irony, Singing in the Rain reveals that cinema is nothing more than a trick and it is also the imaginary that is created around its protagonists. Nevertheless, it does not affect, even for a moment, the aura of this wonderful dream machine, within which everything is possible. In my opinion, the exemplary scenes in this sense are at least three: the opening, the preview of the first sound film, and the final scene in which the public humiliation of the star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) and the consecration of her voice actor Kathy Selden, real girlfriend of the main actor.

Meanwhile the film opens with the crowd cheering the couple Lockwood-Lamont, out of the cinema where the projection of their last effort will be held. Once arrived, the journalist insistently a story between the two, which vague, suggest the probability of a sentimental bond, conscious of the system and what the public wants, or needs to believe. But the reality is completely different. Among the actors there’s no love lost, or rather, he does not bear her, personification of the unwell star and devoid of any talent. The scene continues with Lockwood, who is again pressed by the chronicler, recounts his beginnings and the path that led him to success, and while the words narrate the official version, sweetened and noble, the images show a musician become an actor by chance, doing the stunt.

The second scene, the preview of the sound film, represents the destruction of the myth, the difficulty of using the new technology, resulting in a failed synchronisation of images and sound. Moreover, that same theatrical gestuality and of emphasis, that only a short time was perceived as natural, suddenly becomes grotesque and out of place.

The last scene still takes place inside a cinema, on the occasion of the projection of the same film transformed into a musical comedy, which on the contrary sends the public in raping, preserving the credibility of the protagonists, at least that of Don Lockwood. In fact, in the final, Lina Lamov is exposed and the audience who had never heard her strident and annoying voice, discovers how things really are. At the end of the screening, the spectators ask her to sing, and so instead of covering her as they had done until then, colleagues and producer, take the opportunity to get rid of her. They order the voice actor Kathy Selden to put herself behind the scenes and perform the song, while the Lamov would pretend to sing, but at the height of the performance, they drop the curtain, showing everyone the truth and doing justice to the talent of young interpreter.

These scenes, like all those in which the cinema chooses the road of the metalinguage, using its own grammar to tell itself, are bound by a red thread that is the essence of the performance: it is fiction, but the reaction that it elicits, it is absolutely authentic and real. This is how Singing in the Rain makes reference to the cinema, but above all to the spectator’s condition towards the medium. It shows us that people cry, laugh and dream, identifying themselves in the absolutely fictitious events, of characters equally fictitious, but that give life to real emotions, tangible and intense. So it has always been, so it is, and until all of us continue to believe it, the magic of performance will not fade, in spite of any trick or technological novelty.

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