This summer we celebrate forty-five years since the release of Mel Stuart's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." It was of course based on the classic book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. There are many films we may call "favorites"--you watch them yearly, find new and different things, etc. But then some films stay with you all your life--the music and characters and design become the fabric of who you are--and you don't realize it for, oh a couple of decades. Thus Wonka.
compositions were different...sort of off key...melancholy...dangerous....haunting....like Gene Wilder's incredibly mercurial performance.
|A Clockwork Orange|
|My first cinema wtf? moment|
I won't regale you with all the interesting factoids I discovered in this book about the Wonka movie, "Pure Imagination.". What I will tell you is that Mel Stuart, the director, was not a "kid's movie" director.
|By Mel Stuart|
Much like Wes Anderson's world, the setting was somewhere not here. Shot in West Germany, the diversity of the cast's backgrounds (unfortunately color was not represented) lent an ambivalent feel to this village? city? burg? The script was media-savvy and cautionary --Oompa Loompa songs being the Greek chorus to bad parenting skills.
As a kid, I always escaped the dusty beer-soaked milieu of South Texas with images of a glistening, glossy big city: New York--"Family Affair" and the Macy's Parade. But this urban paradise morphed into something more grimy and gritty. Urban decay was not unheard of here. "All in the Family" premiered that year, bringing sitcom life to a crime-ridden Queens; big screen New York-set films were more French Connection and Lumet and less World of Henry Orient. And subconsciously I was drawn to this film because it did veer into a more lifelike visual reality (outside of the factory of course). Media of the sixties was pretty sanitized what with all the spies, hillbillies, spacemen and goofy dads. Save a few go go dancers and LSD-inspired graphics, my memories of that decade were pretty sanitized. But in 1971, with Manson still on the collective minds of America, Watergate to come and the continuing saga of Vietnam--the brownish hues of the times bled through the psychedelic swirling sixties palette.
And "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" was the golden ticket....to ride.