Singin' in the Rain:
the song

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The song and dance proper utilises a mise-en-scéne that divides the space of the set into four complementary zones, which I will characterise as balcony, soundstage, red, and blue.

These zones, while identifying where a character is physically, clearly provide a set of contextual and thematic markers to allow the film, as a musical, to produce a discourse in song and dance that describes Don's seduction of Kathy. As suggested, while it is Kathy's seduction that is pivotal to the sequence this seduction is also an argument about the authority of the musical and of the cinema, and so the work being performed textually weaves between these two series.

Kathy has been led to her "balcony" by Don, and in this he is clearly indicating to her that he recognises that she is not of his 'world'. His world here is the world of the silent screen, of the fickle public and "dumb show". Clearly it is also the world of the sexualised star, as Kathy's comments about Lina prior to this sequence, and during their first meeting, indicate. Hence not only does this act indicate to Kathy that Don recognises that she is not like he, that she must be persuaded to come down, but that the issue is not whether he should 'rise' to her but that she must descend, that where he is is 'safe'. We have combined here their future as lovers, Kathy's future as a star, Don and Kathy's future as a musical duet, and cinema's future as 'musical'.

Significantly the camera also tends to 'side' with Kathy throughout this sequence, suggesting perhaps the audience too is to share her concerns and suspicions. We can also recognise this as continuing the general seduction that the sequence utilises, for just as Don must persuade Kathy of the faithfulness and integrity of his intentions, so too must he persuade the camera (after all, it is the camera which enables cinema) and as importantly we, the audience.

Just as the the 'singing' cinema is a cinema of the singing and dancing performer, of the chaotic and puckish muse that is Cosmo, so too is it a cinema of the audience, and just as Kathy is gently and respectfully led by Don into his more carnal world of dance, so too are we and the camera to be drawn forward.

Created in 1998 by Adrian Miles, details, republished 2006.