"My Fair Lady is a lumbering, airy musical..."

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Bonhomie

Member
Portuguese (Brazil)
Hi,

"My Fair Lady is a lumbering, airy musical..." this is a quote from the book "1001 MOVIES You Must See Before You Die". I'd like to know what the words "lumbering" and "airy" mean in this context.

In the same paragraph the reviewer says: “…Yet, for all its dead time and cavernous space – Andre Techine, then a young Cahiers du Cinema modernist, admired its ‘astonishing vacuum’…” So I assume when he says “My Fair Lady is a lumbering, airy musical” he means lumbering (dead time) and airy (cavernous space). Am I right?
 
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  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    To my mind, lumbering and airy are not consistent terms to use in a description. "Lumbering" means heavy, ponderous, and slow-moving, while "airy" means light, graceful, spritely, and vivacious.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    So I assume when he says “My Fair Lady is a lumbering, airy musical” he means lumbering (dead time) and airy (cavernous space). Am I right?
    You're right on the literal level-- but the words suggest a dislike of the play, and the author goes on to speak favorably. So he is trying to be a little paradoxical, saying that the play succeeds in spite of its undesirable qualities.

    Also, airy only suggests "cavernous" because the author juxtaposes them-- caverns are stony after all, and have a dark and ponderous quality. I suppose he means there's a lot of "dead space" in the play.

    Airy is a play on arioso, or air in the sense of a tune, and I think this is deliberate-- so the play is light and tuneful in spite of long empty stretches and a slow, cumbersome pace (i.e. "lumbering).
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I think that's being generous to the critic, foxfirebrand. :)

    I do think it signifies a slow-moving, insubstantial plot.
    Well yes it does, but the critic proceeds to talk of admiring something about the play.

    It seems the first post has altered since it was first made-- I'm talking about the part in red font.

    Anyway, My Fair Lady is a notorious guilty pleasure among serious critics who go to great lengths to make sure they're not understood to be treating it seriously. This excerpt reminds me of the many reviews I've seen from critics that seem to labor to have it both ways-- or neither.

    In short, I think many of them like a play they believe is not very good.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    In short, I think many of them like a play they believe is not very good.
    What a dilemma for a critic. :)

    I don't think "airy" and "cavernous" are related, though. "An airy cavern" is a very odd combination of words to me. I know it's possible if a wind blew through it, but I don't think the two are related in the context of this critic's writing.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I don't think "airy" and "cavernous" are related, though. "An airy cavern" is a very odd combination of words to me. I know it's possible if a wind blew through it, but I don't think the two are related in the context of this critic's writing.
    I agree emphatically about the "odd combination," but the very first bit of information we have from this critic is "a lumbering, airy musical." He then expands that juxtaposition to show that one word pertains to time, the other, space-- "dead time" and "cavernous space."

    With the emphasis on space as a cavern's focal attribute, the dank stone recedes from my attention. I guess I see airy as connoting an emptiness or lack of seriousness-- it isn't a statement about well-ventilated space but vast space. That would be the "astonishing vacuum" that is yoked with the idea of admiration, actually liking the play.

    I hope I don't sound too much like I'm defending these choices of words and imagery. To some degree he seems to be throwing them around a little carelessly-- he is a critic, after all.
     
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