(Tim Teeman's article appeared in the Times of London, 12/4.) 


Nine, Odeon Leicester Square

As he introduced the world premiere of Nine, the film’s director, Rob Marshall, paid tribute to the late Anthony Minghella, whose last project was the screenplay. “We all feel the loss of this extraordinary man,” said Marshall. The film is dedicated to Minghella.

If you haven’t seen or don’t know the original musical, and if you are seduced by the spectacular trailers, you might expect Nine to be a glittering cavalcade of frouffed and bouffed leading ladies (Penélope Cruz and Nicole Kidman among them), prowling slinkily around leading man Daniel Day-Lewis. But Nine is one of those rare things: a sombre musical, as gritty as it is glittery.

The story of Day-Lewis’s tormented film director Guido Contini is based on Fellini’s and was first performed on Broadway in 1982, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.

Marshall draws richly on this theatrical DNA. His main stage is precisely that: a skeletal ruin acting as a backdrop for both sombre torch songs and razzle-dazzle ’em, spotlit showstoppers.

The film is set in the sharp-suited, zingy Italy of the mid-1960s. Kate Hudson’s Stephanie, a journalist desperate to bed Contini, sings a ritzy tribute to the era of “motor cars and coffee bars”. But the frustrated Contini doesn’t sleep with her and cannot find the right starting-point for his new film, his block a result of his many tangled relationships with women, which are played out spectacularly in fantasy sequences of song and dance. Your love of Nine will be heavily dependent on the suspension of belief that musicals typically demand.

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