Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933)

A fascinating old musical.

Damien Chazelle, director of “Whiplash” and “La La Land”, says in regards to it that “the songs don’t really begin and end in very ordinary ways, they flow in and out, and sometimes some of the dialogue is in rhythm, or in verse”, and that indeed is one of the most interesting and unique things about it.

Characters speak in lilting phrases, dialogue slips in and out of song, and there’s no clear demarcation between the “musical” and “non-musical” elements there are in a lot of other musical films. I liked that a lot, it kept me perhaps more engaged with the dialogue than I might have been otherwise.

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As for the actual story, while the surface of it made sense to me, I struggled a bit trying to read more meaning into it. I’m intrigued by some of the readings of the film that cast it as a very intentionally subversive, leftist fantasy, but am not fully convinced that was what was being attempted by those involved. Certainly the film’s operating with layers of irony, but I suppose I lack the knowledge and cultural context to really decide what pervading message, if any, was tracking through all those. The film having multiple directors doesn’t help either.

I give it three slices of bread, and a white suit.

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