MELODY

MELODY
5 Stars
Year Released: 1971
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 103 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

I’ve been trying to compile a list of the 10 girliest films. Being a guy, such as I am, I’m finding it rather a rough go. Also, the thing of it is, I make a stark distinction between a girly film and a chick flick. A chick flick is merely a film that heavily appeals to women, as opposed to a girly film which is a film that embodies what women are. This is a huge and important difference. “Amelie”, for example, is a girly film. In every respect it is female; from its gentleness and whimsy to its rich world of fantasy to its pixyish pulling of strings from behind the curtain. Just like Conan the Barbarian embodies the very essence of what it is to be male; “Amelie” does this for what it is to be female.

Anyway, like I’ve said, my list is not going well. I’ve only managed to think of TWO movies. Number one (so far) is the aforementioned “Amelie”, and number two is the one I want to review for you today: “Melody.”

Written by a very young Alan Parker and directed by Waris Hussein (who holds the distinction and honor of having directed the very first Doctor Who episode) “Melody” is an honest, uncensored and painfully joyful view of first love. You couldn’t make a film like this today without dumbing it down and cutting any sort of controversial content to shreds so as not to offend those who want to protect children by neutering and censoring their fictional representation. The kids in “Melody” are as close as you’re likely to get to real kids in a film: Wild, crazy and free. They smoke, try to sneak into nudey shows, curse every other word and are awkward, defiant, scared and absolutely fascinated in the face of what life has to offer them. And yet, at the same time, they’re still children. They’re frightening and beautiful in their innocence, instead of that simplistic “precocious” or “wise beyond their years” bullshit that lazy writers who remember nothing of their own childhood try to pass off as realism. The kids of “Melody” have never had to think about the consequences of what they do because tomorrow is a thousand years away. Nor do they have the answer to anything, only a myriad of questions which even I, now old enough to be their father, still occasionally ask myself.

Mark Lester stars as Daniel Latimer, a lonely British Schoolboy who finally finds a friend when the school jokester Ornshaw (An almost spookily ageless 19 year old Jack Wild playing a 6th grader) takes a liking to him. Things begin to look up as Danny starts to fit it. However, not long after he also meets Melody Parker (Child model Tracy Hyde) in his music class and immediately senses a connection to her that feels different than the friendship he has with Ornshaw, prompting a fair measure of anger and jealousy from the latter. The scenes where the two meet aren’t cute or contrived; they simply illustrate how a twelve year old boy and girl who have not yet had their hearts broken react to experiencing affection for each other.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, one of the things the film rightfully ignores is any kind of sexual attraction between the two. Both Danny and Melody know about sex, one funny scene has Melody trying to rattle her mother by a fanciful recounting of meeting a non-existent park pervert, but the film knows that kids that young (at least in those days and in my days.) haven’t associated sex and love in the same way that adults would. To them, these things as different as the moon and the sun; love is love and it’s awesome, and sex is… a mystery.

So, as children are wont to do, they decide to get married. Why not? They’re in love. In their minds it’s perfectly logical. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to be happy? Right there is what every child bitterly cries out at one time in his or her life when the stubborn rules of the world stand in the way of doing something that would be simple if it wasn’t for all the barriers being erected by adults, and if you don’t feel a slight pang of sympathy (even if you don’t agree with the goal) then I don’t know what to do with you.

Melody was made at a time when the generation gap was widening by the day, and the idea of children questioning authority and defying their elders must have certainly felt topical to the hippy crowd. Yet, unlike a lot of films from the era, Melody really hasn’t aged because it’s not about its original subtext of old VS young anymore so much as it is about the fearlessness of children and a nostalgic (but mostly truthful) look back at that very short time in your life where you’re so painfully happy that you don’t even realize that this is how you felt until long after.

The ending sees both children, now newlywed after being married in a mock ceremony by a finally sympathetic Ornshaw, escaping the disapproving adults using an old trolley and riding away into the sunset together. I wasn’t even born when this film came out and now I’m a little over three times the age that they were, but even though I know that essentially their dream is doomed and that a darker ending looms some time after the credits, I can’t help but want to run after them yelling: “Goodbye! Good luck! Goodbye! Good luck! Goodbye! Good luck!…” until they fade from sight.

Yes, it is just puppy love being taken way too far by naïve children, but only the coldest hearted miser couldn’t secretly cheer them on.

Unfortunately “Melody” is not available on DVD except in Japan, probably because the subject matter in a film so obviously meant for children feels uncomfortable to today’s parents. I think this is a disgrace; this is a wonderful moving film for all ages.



Posted on February 4, 2008 in Reviews by
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