Singin' in the Rain:
alchemy

During the 'You Were Mean't for Me' sequence a carefully formalised set of distinctions are utilised in the mise-en-scéne to develop and illustrate the specific terms of the sequence's argument.

These terms, as indicated, revolve around the use of the ladder to separate the stage floor from Kathy, and the association of the red lighting with Don, to suggest something about his passion or carnality.

However, these terms can be extended, so that in a more formal sense we can recognise that Don's red is countered by Kathy's blue (both her costume, and the lighting in the areas that she dances into), and that the space of the stage floor, as the space of the performing body (the world of dance) is counterpointed with the space of the 'balcony' which is the space of voice (it is literally "in the air").

Hence not only does Kathy's blue costuming take on additional thematic import but the use of the wind machine ("a soft summer breeze") and the diaphanous blue veils of her dress gently blowing in this "breeze", when countered with the physicality of the space of dance, begins to articulate a poetics of voice and dance, breath and body, air and earth.

Of course, the additional terms needed for a proper alchemy would be fire and water, but it would appear to be a short step to characterising the red lighting of Don and the blue costuming and lighting of Kathy with these terms!

As with the structural reversal that concludes the dance it is difficult to interpret the import of these terms within the sequence, or within the film, but it might suggest that within the terms that the film utilises to represent itself there is a mode of concrete thought and poetic logic that is, indeed, close to that described by Lévi-Strauss (passim) and perhaps even more substantially by Bachelard.

Within the sequence the reversal at the end of the dance, where Don now rises on the ladder while Kathy remains below, the voice (more particularly song), must not be excluded or marginalised for the properly 'musical' cinema. This is also why the sequence can only end when the dance has resolved itself back into song.

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