Finian's Rainbow (Francis Ford Coppola / U.S., 1968):

An allegory of the end of the studio system, couched in archaic-modern mementos right down to Keenan Wynnís resemblance to Jack Warner. The satirical Broadway utopia is reproduced amid the "festering tides of radicalism," Fred Astaire (MGMís arthritic gallantry) and Petula Clark (the link to I Know Where Iím Going!) materialize on rolling green hills quickly revealed as the Deep South of "the idle poor and the idle rich," a popular-front backwater where sharecroppers, guitarists and silent naÔfs scamper to Hermes Pan choreography while Wynnís bigoted senator cries for mint julep. "Youíve seen The Birth of a Nation, havenít you?" And just to push the whimsy meter to nuclear levels, in prances Tommy Steele, whose leprechauny razzmatazz is perhaps modeled on Mickey Rooneyís Puck. "How are things in Glocca Morra?" "Alas, alack and willy-wally." The frankly surreal transmutation suggests Uncle Remus teleported to the year of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., or at least Francis Ford Coppola the New Wave upstart scrambling to blow the dust from the old Warner Bros. lot. As the galvanic twitch of dying musicals, itís passably spirited: Numbers like "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isnít Love" and "The Great Come-and-Get-It Day" betray a close study of Donen and Walters, and Coppola eagerly tries to shatter the proscenium with jump-cuts, ascending cranes and floating cameras. Itís as souvenirs from a period of awkward cinematic transition, however, that its peculiar folkloric talismans -- a pot of gold buried in Astroturf grass, a homegrown cig that wonít burn, a marriage held in the charred carcass of a barn -- grow fascinating. An experiment that finds its completion in One from the Heart, and a refrain ("Follow the fellow who follows a dream...") for the director to apply to the Cosa Nostra, Vietnam, and the rollercoaster of his own career. Cinematography by Philip Lathrop. With Don Francks, Barbara Hancock, Al Freeman Jr., Ronald Colby and Dolph Sweet.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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