August 6th, 2011

piranha - in a blue period

Movie: Cradle Will Rock (1999)

“Art is never dangerous -- unless it tells the truth.”

Cradle Will Rock synopsis: In 1930s New York Orson Welles tries to stage a musical on a steel strike under the Federal Theater Program despite pressure from an establishment fearful of industrial unrest and red activity. Meanwhile Nelson Rockefeller gets the foyer of his company headquarters decorated and an Italian countess sells paintings for Mussolini. (Written by Jeremy Perkins for

I think I first heard about this movie when I watched that PBS documentary about musicals several years back. Gee, that must have been at least five years ago now…
(Google is a wonderful thing. Broadway: The American Musical debuted back in 2004, looks like.)

In one of my art history classes (possibly the one with Professor Giles), we watched a brief segment of Cradle Will Rock because of the scenes with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. That was also pretty cool, and I think it must have been after watching that clip that I added the movie to my Netflix queue.

Now that I’ve finally seen it, I’ve had a bit of a mixed reaction to it.

It took me a long time to really get into the movie. It starts out at a leisurely pace, and there’s so many characters introduced quickly that it’s hard to get a feel for their various personalities until the movie’s been running a while. So, I almost turned it off three or four times. There was so much happening, and yet it seemed like nothing was going on. But once I finally got into the groove of the storytelling, and settled into the characters, it got better.

Still, though, Cradle Will Rock is a movie that tries to do a bit too much. It’s trying to celebrate theatre and freedom of the muse, whether it’s for a playwright, painter or writer. It’s very much a theatre movie for theatre people. It’s talking about art, about politics, about relationships…just a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

I mean, in the end, I thought the story was interesting and worth the watching. But it wasn’t like the movie had me convinced of that fact from the get-go.

The star-studded cast includes Bill Murray, Hank Azaria, Susan Sarandon and Vanessa Redgrave. With such a large ensemble, it’s really hard for anyone to break out and be noticed.