4K re-releases continue to amaze with their ability to bring a whole new life to the films they’re restoring. A film like My Fair Lady, which was made over fifty years ago, seems like it was made last year. The colour and detail on screen is so crisp and perfect, it does make you wonder how much further we can go with this sort of technology. So if you are a big fan of this all time classic, then you should definitely pick this up to see it in an all new light. Then you should immediately stop reading this review because the 4K manages to vastly improve the visuals of the film, but it doesn’t do anything for the film’s story.
My Fair Lady is definitely the kind of film that wouldn’t be made now. It’s a common thing these days within film journalism to look at old films through modern eyes. And while some films are unfairly deemed offensive simply because their villains identify as a member of a minority group, My Fair Lady can be seen as some what elitist and a bit misogynist. When we’re introduced to Professor Henry Higgins, he’s shown as a upper-middle class gentleman who looks down his nose at the working class and even goes so far as to bully members of said class in the street, berating some for being illiterate. He then tortures a woman so that she can speak without a cockney accent and sings about how much he hates the opposite sex. What does he get as punishment at the end? A loving wife.
As with pretty much any film made before the turn of the century you have to accept that this was a representation of the values of the times. So nobody who’s alive that was involved in the production of this should be forced to apologise online. This just means that the film won’t stand the test of time in the same way as Citizen Kane or Singin’ In The Rain!.
My Fair Lady also reveals how differently musicals used to be tackled. While there are some recognisable songs in here, that many will know more from The Simpsons and Family Guy than this film, a lot of the tunes sound very similar and quite frankly aren’t always all that well sung (especially when Audrey Hepburn is doing her Dick Van Dyke impression at the start). It reveals just how spoilt we are now for musicals when you have such lively and vibrant musicals from Lin Manuel Miranda and epic period events like Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman.
What’s also apparent about My Fair Lady is its pacing. The film is just under three hours long and it feels like it. This story doesn’t require that length of time at all. The Simpsons did a parody episode of this in 20 minutes and that gets the same story beats across in a much more palatable time.
Audrey Hepburn’s sheer classical charisma does still shine through in My Fair Lady, but it’s very much a film of its era and isn’t quite as timeless as many others from the golden age of Hollywood.
The My Fair Lady 4K Restoration and Blu Ray set is available to buy now