The 2002 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Chicago, is a movie based on the Tony nominated musical of the same title; the story follows two women suspected and charged for murder in the 20s. The film starts with Velma Kelly, a jazz singer, and Roxie Hart, a hopeful jazz singer, being arrested within hours of each other for separate possible murders and find themselves trapped in the slammer. The two murderesses sing, dance, and fight to win their case all while still landing the headlining story in the newspapers—Velma desperately holds on to her fame and Roxie, who becomes famous overnight, embraces her new found fame. The two skip the gallows and get off scot-free! The two realize they can’t have a great show alone so they team up and they collect the roses, the praise, the applause, and all that jazz.
Out of all the scenes I could of chosen, I picked “Mr. Cellophane” because I thought this would have the least about of edits and setups in any of the musical numbers; Amos, Roxie’s funny honey, tries so hard to get his wife the money for the best lawyer around, Billy Flynn, so she can come back home. To capture the crowds’ attention and love again, Roxie lies about being pregnant and Amos is happy to receive the great news but Roxie ignores her husband completely—not surprising at all. It goes into the sad number about how Amos basically feels invisible to everyone, especially his wife, because you could look right through him, walk right by him, and never even know he was there. Billy explains to Amos there is no way he’s the father and plants the idea of divorce in his head; Amos is convinced the Roxie wouldn’t even notice the divorce. The scene cuts from real moments that happen to Amos and shots of him getting ready as well as him singing the sad song on stage while people observe but aren’t moved by his sad tale.
This happens to be one of my favorite films so it made sense to me to pick a scene from this film but most of the scenes are intimidating because of all the edits and camera setups they have. Out of all the musical numbers, I thought this might have the least amount and I used to really connect with this song, as I too once felt invisible like cellophane but not so much anymore. What is really affective in this film is the use of shots of what would really happen in the world, as we would see it and what would happen on stage, as the characters would see it. While Amos sings his heart out on stage, he has that one spotlight and in this moment, he is the star because he commands the attention and finally has it as well. Whether we are like the two people who watch him with no emotion or we feel for Roxie’s husband, he proves he’s no longer hidden in her shadows and we cannot ignore him. I love the lighting in this scene while he’s on stage because the spotlight follows him making him the star of his own number and at times this lighting gives off a cameo effect and then a silhouette effect. These are powerful because it forces the audience to just see “invisible” Amos and nothing else.
Comparing the scene to the whole film, it is slower in pace as the edits are a bit more infrequent but if you compare this scene to the an indie film, that might use less edits and may keep longer takes, this scene would have faster pacing. The beginning of the song and scene has Roxie ignoring him, which fuels the timing of the song; we see him put on his white face make up to give him a ghostly glow when the lights hit him on stage. Even though this isn’t an element the editor has any control over, they including the shots needed so the audience could gather that Amos is basically being compared not only to cellophane but being as nonexistent as a ghost; there are many close ups of Amos’ pale face near the end of the song that make us feel his suffering and sorrow and this makes the actor look good. The editor wants to wants make everyone look good so the story makes more sense and that was definitely obtained in this scene. The editor clearly has a great eye because he didn’t over edit this scene and let John C. Reilly control the screen making Amos likeable and we begin to feel truly sorry for him; this is smart because it gives the audience a moment to remember how awful Roxie is for treating her husband with such disrespect, even though she is an exciting character to watch and even root for!
It is really difficult to count the edits for any scene in the film in general (and I’d love to know which musical number has the least about of camera setups and edits). I am not sure if I have the correct numbers but I believe there were about 29 camera setups and 82 edits. A lot of the shots of Amos on stage are mostly the same but from different angles; most of the camera setups came from the beginning of the scene with Roxie, him applying his stage make up, as well as when he’s faced with the “truth” from Billy. There are longer takes and less edits when Amos sings on stage mostly because of the lack of huge dance numbers like the rest of the songs in the film and because this is the most genuine songs so it didn’t need to be masked with a lot of edits.
Signing off with much love,