3ª SESSÃO, 22h, SEDE: Hepburn e Tracy - olha que dois! Comédias clássicas às 5f!

DIA 21 DE JUNHO. Entrada Livre.

A MULHER QUE SABE TUDO, Walter Lang, EUA, 1957, 103’

Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn ) é a chefe do departamento de investigação na Federal Broadcasting Company, uma importante estação de televisão. E faz o seu trabalho muito bem, muito obrigado! Designado pelo presidente da estação para informatizar algumas funções em determinados departamentos, Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) chega ao bem gerido departamento de Bunny para observar as actividades diárias. Infelizmente, Sumner tem de manter a sua missão secreta. Como resultado, todos pensam que vão ser substituídos. Para tornar as coisas ainda piores, parece haver um pouco de química a mais entre Bunny e Sumner, o que irrita Mike (Gig Young, o namorado de Bunny). Enquanto a tensão no escritório aumenta, aumentam também as gargalhadas nesta clássica comédia romântica.

Initially appearing as nothing more than a simple and extremely predictable romance Desk Set is actually a film that was a clear sign of the times when it was made. Taking several themes that include job security and the inevitable introduction of machines to the work place, it treads along those lines and bundles them with the romance and light hearted comedy everyone can enjoy. Beneath the surface it is making statements about the advent of technology in the modern world and tries to disperse people’s fears and insecurities as machines take over seemingly mundane duties.

What the film tries to achieve is to reassure people that technology is only as good as the people who have created it - Therefore, a database that provides all the answers to every question, can only be beneficial if it has been programmed with the relevant knowledge. We are to understand that people and machines are meant to work in harmony if the pairing is ever to be successful in future.

At heart, Desk Set is one of those fairytale like romances, where love blooms in the unlikeliest situation. I find myself accustomed to stories like this. It’s been done to death but even if Desk Set doesn’t always get full acknowledgement for being an overall good film; it at least contains some nice scenes that deserve some credit.

We have a marvellous personality test sequence, set on the rooftop of the company building and then later an equally fine moment when Richard and Bunny are at Bunny’s home, just waiting for that eventual scene when her boyfriend walks in. It is the fine dialogue that keeps the film above water.

Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn had been acting together for a long time - that much shows in their on-screen chemistry as they bounce off of each other with witty line, after witty line. Whilst they are a joy to watch and huge talents, they don’t quite pull off their roles here to a fuller effect.

Spencer Tracey delivers his lines perfectly and he appears cheery but somewhat cumbersome, no doubt due to the fact that he wasn’t in the best of health at the time. He’s certainly an admirable fellow with fine qualities and in the past has made more memorable features. Here I just didn’t take to the romantic pairing between himself and Hepburn, even though it is obvious things are rushed toward the end, as director Walter Lang decides to play up the comic factor by giving us a large set piece that centres around the gigantic machine of knowledge, known as E.M.I.R.A.C. By the closing reel the effect just doesn’t seem as great after all the build up toward that eventual, romantic moment.

Hepburn is an actress that I admire off and on. It has always been my opinion that she is prone to overstate her performance in a scene. At times she is spot on and is brilliant at changing her emotions at the drop of a pin but at other times she creates her own trap by carrying on a scene for too long. There are several notable scenes in this film that look as if she is genuinely having fun, they have real qualities about them and she is giving it her all, but some of them do outstay their welcome and Lang should have tightened these up. Hepburn was very much into improvisation however, and while they are nice in some respects, they don’t always work in favour of the film.

The supporting cast all do fine jobs. In fact it is very much an ensemble piece that benefits from everyone’s input. Gig Young is fine as Bunny’s boyfriend who one minute you like, the next you’re thinking he’s a smarmy sod and don’t know why Bunny has put up with him for seven years. Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill and Sue Randall play Bunny’s likeable friends and get a few decent scenes together. Walter Lang respectfully gives each actress ample amounts of screen time and with the help of the wide lens we often get static shots featuring five or more actors on screen at one time. The actresses are enjoyable and play their parts convincingly.
Neva Patterson does a fine turn as E.M.I.R.A.C.’s "mother". Although she is introduced in the last act she displays a fine talent for comedy while Ida Moore manages to raise a few smiles on the viewer's face, as the old lady who just wanders around the building without uttering a single word.

Desk Set is filmed in Fox’s Cinemascope. At the time this was a revolutionary process and Walter Lang gets all the mileage he can from it. The film features some wonderful wide shots that show off the scale of some of the sets. It seems obvious that he had a desire to show off the beast of a machine that appears in the final act. It’s one of those films that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with having the need for scope but it works well in this instance and the shots have plenty of detail and various other things going on in the background that justify its use.
Lang also introduces split-screen techniques - a process that has been used countless amounts of time but are always effective. They create a comic book quality, primarily for phone conversation pieces and it’s another neat addition to the film that shows Lang’s willingness to experiment more with the camera.
in the digitalfix.com

There is something quite amusing when you consider the premise of "Desk Set" as you have a team of researchers fretting over their jobs as computers are introduced. It's amusing because you wouldn't think that over 50 years ago computers taking over the work place would be seen as such a threat but apparently they were and as such "Desk Set" in some way is a movie made to assure people over the computer revolution. But whilst that is the premise "Desk Set" is also a fun romance, a predictable one, but one which has some great moments which is down to the pair of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn lighting up the screen with their wickedly sharp banter. If it wasn't for Tracy and Hepburn "Desk Set" would have been just another fun but average romantic comedy but watching these two basically fire off each other makes it so much more.

"Desk Set" is a movie which has two sides, the clever side is that it embraces what was then a threat of computers not so much taking over but leading to job insecurity. It's an element which almost gets lost beneath all the romantic fun but even so it is cleverly worked to be amusing but also realistic. What this premise achieves is that whilst computers are good they are only as good as the people who operate them and in doing so going some way to allay people's fears that computers will replace people in the work place.

For most movies the lack of ingenuity on an old formula would be a problem but for "Desk Set" it isn't because it is all great fun. And that great fun comes from Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn who bring the comedy alive whilst also giving the movie a romantic spark. Some of the best scenes are when Bunny and Sumner are alone and the dialogue bounces back and forth between them such as the interview scene on the roof top or the comedy over the dinner. Without these two who are on brilliant form as they verbally spar "Desk Set" would have been fun but just average.

So good are Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in "Desk Set" that a talented supporting cast are put in the shade. Gig Young seems so under used as Mike Cutler getting just a couple of really good scenes in the whole movie and whilst Joan Blondell fires off some great snappy one liners is never given the chance to really fire on all cylinders. It does mean that rather than being a mess of comedy "Desk Set" focuses on that provided by Tracy and Hepburn but even so I would have loved for a bit more of Gig Young's slick repartee.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Desk Set" may be a movie which goes some way to allay people's fears over the then computer revolution it is also a rather good romantic comedy. It maybe predictable and never strays from a well worked formula but with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn delivering scene after scene of laughs it's impossible not to like it especially with the spark of romance flying off the screen as well.
in the moviescene.co.uk

Título Original: Desk Set
Realização: Walter Lang
Argumento: Phoebe Ephron e Henry Ephron, baseado numa obra de William Marchant
Música: Cyril J. Mockridge
Fotografia: Leon Shamroy
Montagem: Robert L. Simpson
Interpretação: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, Sue Randall
Origem: EUA
Ano: 1957
Duração: 103’

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