Friday, November 1, 2019

Why Didn't Judy Sing Judy?

The creators of the new movie, Judy, made a conscious choice NOT to use her singing voice. Rather they used the voice of their star, Renée Zellweger. That's like using Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow's voice in a Frank Sinatra biopic. God forbid...

What does this have to do with kundalini?  Investigators such as Gopi Krishna have written about the effects of a kundalini awakening, not only on those who meditate for it or those who are spontaneously struck by it, but also as it concerns people of genius, who, they believe, appear to have been born with an operational kundalini. By that I mean the energy centers that ordinary people must cultivate, either on purpose or accidentally, are already functioning at birth in people of genius. As of yet, how this works, no one knows.
“Look For The Silver Lining" - sung by Judy Garland in Till The Clouds Roll By (1946)
These writers have cited Walt Whitman, Einstein, Maurice Bucke, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer as examples of genius so extraordinary that some advanced aspect of physiological evolution must be at work in their beings that allows them unequaled mastery in their field, combining the ability to focus with special insight into the nature of things. This faculty manifests itself in many ways.

How did they come up with these names? Why the list was restricted to thinkers and philosophers I don't know? Nevertheless, I'd like to broaden the list to include, not only to great intellects, but also writers, athletes, artists, singers and musicians.

No mention is made of how geniuses — of the academic sort — conduct their lives. Whether: they are happily married. Have hobbies. Pay taxes. Have lots of friends. Are moody. Are on good terms with their children. Mistreat their servants. Have an addiction.

The same is not true for the second group — a sample of which I nominate: Willie Mays, Thelonious Monk, Charles Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Mozart, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Aretha Franklin, Stanley Kubrick, and yes, Judy Garland and a select few others. Their celebrity, especially for those who've lived in this era of mass media scrutiny, fed their various urges, co-opting and overwhelming them.

Celebrity  becomes notoriety. Not for all, of course. But genius does not necessarily equate to stability, not for Mozart or Judy. Personal relations and personal affairs are often mismanaged or neglected by geniuses. Still, we wonder at their uniqueness, their one-in-a-million virtuosity. There's a big difference between average and genius. A gaping chasm that director Rupert Goold did not dare to cross. According to Internet commentary, he forced Renée Zellweger to use her own voice because he believed pantomiming and lip syncing would destroy the spontaneity of her performance.

That's like using someone else's voice in a Aretha Franklin or a Barbra Streisand or a Ray... uh-oh, Charles biopic? Hmm, hasn't that flic already been made? Didn't his performance win an Oscar for Jamie Foxx? Didn't he lip sync to Ray Charles's original music? Wasn't the result edited in to perfection? Didn't the fact that director Taylor Hackford made performance and music fit together seamlessly make it the best musical biopic ever? Can you imagine substituting someone else's voice? I can't...

Sadly, Rupert Goold thought the lip-sync challenge too great for Judy, making an idea for a good film ho-hum. Yet, he even wrote into his script the most important factor in a musical picture: In the beginning of the film, the Louis B. Mayer character tells teen-age Judy that what sets her apart from Lana Turner and Ava Gardner is not glamor or beauty, but her unique voice. Evidently, Goold didn't want to follow his character's evaluation. (PS. I think she's both beautiful and glamorous.)
Judy Garland sings Little Drops Of Rain on The Jack Paar Show (1962)
It's not Renée Zellweger's fault; she has a pleasant singing voice. But she's not the genius Judy Garland was. Nowhere near, and it shows. Her voice lacks Judy's emotional power and color, and that doesn't even count its beauty. 

That's why Ray was so good. That's why La Vie en Rose, the Edith Piaf biopic, was so great. The producers used the real Piaf's singing voice, not some imitation. It's not only my opinion, it's Marion Cotillard's, the star of La Vie en Rose, as she so cogently expressed it on the Graham Norton show in this YouTube interview.

Viewers, vaguely familiar with the real Judy Garland, might be charmed by Zellweger's performance, might also be charmed by her pleasant voice, willing to let her performance overshadow the music. Real music lovers, however, cannot. Why not? Because the real Judy's voice is the only authentic element that connects any spoken or visual depiction to the real Judy Garland — her voice, with its color, its quivering vibrato, perfect pitch, powerful crescendos, and breathless tremolos.

These people might also defend the director's choice, say I have no right to criticize such a wonderful performance. They be wrong on that count...and, and probably unfamiliar with Judy Garland's body of work. You can't compare Zellweger's voice to Judy's, especially if you've never listened to Judy sing. 

What's more, didn't Judy have a hard enough life — exhaustively sensationalized in this interpretation — without having her legacy adulterated?

Here's an incisive comment on La Vie En Rose that sums up the musical biopic discussion:
“Piaf's magnificent, emotional singing is fully complemented by Cotillard's balls to the wall performance. Heart and soul are in total sync here and Cotillard manages to age astonishingly well. This is a terrible tale of a child grotesquely abandoned emotionally by her parents. Piaf's will to live is inspiring even in the face of self-destruction that makes Judy Garland's own battles with alcohol and drugs seem minor in comparison. The parallels to both women are hard to ignore. The rest of the cast is first-rate, and the film beautifully evokes the eras covered in her life. Best of all there is the great Piaf recorded legacy which is well-handled here. There's no sense that Cotillard is not singing and that's a testament to the skill that suffuses this fine film. Excellent.”
~ IMDb Movie review - La Vie en Rose (2007)
In spite of their personal issues, geniuses like Judy always give more than they take:

Click below to view some of Judy's most iconic performances.

A few of the real Judy's most iconic performances gratefully preserved on YouTube. (You might want to click the Skip Ad button when it appears):

"The Wizard Of Oz" (1939) - age 17
Over the Rainbow

"Meet Me In St. Louis" (1944) - age 22
The Boy Next Door
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

"Till The Clouds Roll By" (1946) - age 24
Look For The Silver Lining

The Jack Paar Show (1962) - She's 40, seven years before her death in 1969 at the age of 47. Check out the studio audience's reaction when the song ends. (The Jack Paar Show was that era's Late Night Show a la Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon.)
Little Drops Of Rain

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  1. Indeed, well spoken, and I agree. But these, I fear, are the kind of decisions that Hollywood often makes, and the skilled technical directors who get the green light. Perhaps the question even hinged on the performance music rights costs. I wonder if Zellweger herself would've been happier become spontaneous in Garland's shoes. Or if there were any tests done to see if it might've worked. But superb to well-executed mediocrity is kind of a norm in Hollywood.

    1. Here's a quote on her end-of-life financial situation:

      "Upon Garland's death, despite having earned millions during her career, her estate came to US$40,000 (equivalent to $273,285 in 2018). Years of mismanagement of her financial affairs by her representatives and staff along with her generosity toward her family resulted in her poor financial situation at the end of her life. In her last will, signed and sealed in early 1961, Garland made many generous bequests which could not be fulfilled because her estate had been in debt for many years. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli, worked to pay off her mother's debts with the help of family friend Frank Sinatra.[139] In 1978, a selection of Garland's personal items was auctioned off by her ex-husband Sidney Luft with the support of their daughter Lorna and their son Joe. Almost 500 items, ranging from copper cookware to musical arrangements, were offered for sale. The auction raised US$250,000 (equivalent to $960,332 in 2018) for her heirs."

      Her family would probably of welcomed the film, with script approval, perhaps.

  2. It is very common for Hollywood to be unable to recognize real talent and genius at work. Gone are the movies that fill our Souls with Spiritual fulfillment like The Wizard of Oz. And Judy's singing performance was one of the reasons why that was the case. It spoke to all of our hearts and made us tune into something Primal, something not of this world. It takes a Spiritually evolved person to recognize such a power behind a person's voice. Clearly the people who made the new Judy movie are not those people. On a side note, I very much enjoyed your tangent on Kundalini awakened people and what makes them differ from other people in terms of their lifestyle, etc. With so much talk of Gopi Krishna and other Spiritually awakened people from other cultures that us North Americans can't relate to, more real-life accounts are needed from awakened people from a similar type of society. Us awakened North Americans are some of the most unusual and extraordinary people on the planet. We stick out in ways others don't and attract attention without any real conscious desire to do so. Deep down we want to lift others up and give them the same freedom to be ourselves in the face of any adversity and not conform to any societal structure or rules. A Kundalini awakened person is a revolutionary and leads by example. We are perceived as "weird" by those who can't understand us but who also can't take their eyes off us. Deep down they all want the same freedom we have to feel at home everywhere we go. Anyways some food for thought. Well written again JJ and excellent work informing other people about this most elusive, mysterious, and significant topic today- the Kundalini

    1. When writing "Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time," that's exactly what I had in mind: a Westerner's account of a kundalini activation. The point being there's a much different set of cultural and psychological references that influence the ways East and West relate to life and shape consciousness.