Daisy Gamble, a chain-smoking addict requests the help of hypnotist Doctor Chabot to cure her addiction. During their sessions, he discovers that she can regress into a past life, bringing forth the personality of Melinda Tendrees, a 19th-century Englishwoman. Daisy falls in love with the doctor, the doctor falls in love with Melinda, and Melinda falls in love with the doctor creating a love triangle of an unusual sort. Singing ensues.
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“A man must be strong for you to respect him, but weak for you love him. And love makes the choice.”
If there was one word to sum up this film it’s this: colour. Lush, rich, colour. The first few shots of the film begin with flowers in fast-motion bloom, filling the screen with vibrant colour. Enter Barbra Streisand singing:
“Hey buds below ... up is where to grow
But this isn’t a musical about home and garden. Reincarnation, hypnotism, ESP and love are the themes of this film. And yes, flowers. Based on the 1965 Broadway musical, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is about 22-year old Daisy Gamble (Barbra Streisand), desperate to end her addiction to cigarettes in order to impress her fiancé’s potential employer. Imploring the help of Doctor Marc Chabot (Yves Montand), who is immediately irritated by her, Daisy convinces him to hypnotize her. To his surprise, he discovers that Daisy can regress into the personality of Melinda Tendrees, a sexy, confident English woman from the 18th century. Gone is the rambling, New York drawl, replaced with a refined English accent, startling the fascinated doctor. As Melinda recounts her various adventures, Chabot begins to fall for her, extending his kindness to Daisy when she comes out of her hypnotic state. Mistaking the doctor’s interest in her as love, Daisy falls for him. When she eventually finds out that he’s in love with someone who lives inside her, but isn’t her, she is devastated.
As implausible as the plot may seem, Montand and Streisand give their characters enough emotion, humour, and playfulness to secure an audience. They bring together two different worlds, whipping through snappy dialogue:
“When were you 24?”
The good doctor is reasonable, rational and refined. Daisy is kooky, scattered and impulsive. Daisy’s ESP, horticultural gifts and outlook on life challenges everything the doctor believes in, forcing him to finally confess, “Why Daisy…you’re a bloody miracle!”
The songs in the musical are entertaining and sweet with some more memorable than others. Streisand showcases her comedic and singing talent in the amusing “Go to Sleep” number as she and her conscience deal with her feelings for the doctor. Montand has a clear, deep voice giving emotion to the song “Melinda” as he longs for someone who doesn’t exist anymore.
Alternating between New York rooftops and old English courthouses or homes, the sets in the film are utterly gorgeous. Stylish, modern 70s apartments and offices are intercut with grand, English homes where dinner parties are thrown. The wardrobe is also stunning as Melinda wears flowing, romantic dresses in contrast to Daisy’s mod clothing. Whereas Melinda stands out in any room she walks into, Daisy blends into the wall – literally – in one scene when her nightdress, bedspread and wallpaper are all the same design! Director Vincente Minnelli chooses to quickly intercut scenes from the past and present as characters interact, creating spastic scenes where it’s not certain who is talking to whom. Interesting choice as it makes for a visually entertaining scene.
Surprisingly fun with lavish costumes and sets, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is a fascinating look into the deeper meaning of relationships. Contrasting conformity with imagination, Minnelli creates a film with characters that push and challenge each other. Sometimes over-the-top and sometimes quietly touching, the film displays characters with clashing preconceptions discovering that “Love is the exception to every rule, is it not?”