"Chicago" Movie Review

Archetypes Hidden in the Movie

by Earl Gosnell, part 1

I quite agree with Roger Ebert—Chicago Sun Times—that "you can watch it over and over!" so I am going to give away more of the plot than would be appropriate to an audience that has yet to see it once. By all means, see the movie; then read this review.

My boss and I have a penchant for trying to discover archetypes hidden under the surface in popular movies. From that standpoint "Chicago" is quite clever.

Have you ever read Paul? He is difficult to understand and a lot of people get tripped up trying. What's more, he has a reputation in some circles as a misogynist. What would it be like to portray some of his thoughts in an art form, say a movie, where women are in no case put down? Get my drift?

In Chicago it is the men who come out at the bottom. The merry murderesses eliminated quite a few of them, for a series of faults on the men's part. Amos is a cuckold and a meal ticket. The male judge and the exclusively male jury get bamboozled. And the assistant D.A. not only doesn't get closer to the governor's seat, he gets a shady reputation. Of the males, only the lawyer Billy Flynn remains intact, but he had to earn every penny of his fee saving the arses of his female clients. It would seem next to impossible to represent the philosophy of "misogynist" Paul in this movie, but that is exactly what happened, whether by intention or by accident of artistic insight, who knows?

Furthermore, some of the types are quite obvious. We are introduced to Billy Flynn, that "silver tongued prince of the courtroom" in silhouette where we see a distinguished man in top hat having his shoes shined. When the spotlight hits him, it is on the one shining the shoes. How can we not here be reminded of Christ, washing his disciples' feet, and explaining that he came here to serve, not to be served. "All I care about is love."

According to Paul's theology, Christ divested himself of the prerogatives of Godhood, to come to earth as a man, a servant, a sufferer. If you can handle a bit of mild irreverence in Billy's strip tease, the analogy is apt, Billy not caring for Packard cars, black cigars, fancy clothes, etc. "All I care about is love."

Then there is Matron Mama Morton. She believes that life is tit for tat, and that's the way she lives. Ah, the law, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. "Reciprocity". And yet the law is good and beneficial if one abides by it. And, according to Paul, the law points the way to Christ. Well, Mama Morton placed those phone calls to Billy on behalf of the girls. I know it's weird, but Paul would be right at home in this sequence, if he could get over his misogyny.

The third type one may get from Paul is the Cell Block Tango, "It was a murder/ But not a crime." Man, how could you not think of Paul's teaching on marriage (if you are familiar with him, that is), where he strongly advises against it, but if you do get married, it is not a sin. (The one direct connection is heard in the song Razzle Dazzle: "Razzle dazzle 'em, and you'll have a romance," where romance is in allegory to be found innocent for, from the guilt of romance as trying to get away with murder.) I'm not saying marriage is murder, just that the mechanism of advising against something but not condemning it if you do can well be illustrated here. "If you'd a been there/ If you'd a seen it/ I bet ya, you would have done the same." Although remaining single leaves one freer to follow and serve the Lord, a lot of people get married, and anyone in their situation would have done the same, I bet.

There are seven murderesses we get the details on. The six merry murderesses of murderer's row, minus the Hunyak who was Not Guilty—her scarf in the cell block tango being white, while those of the 5 murderesses were red—gives us five. Then there is Roxie makes six, and the heiress makes seven. Seven is the number of completion, and they suggest the seven reasons why people marry.

"Pop," the gum, is for trivial reasons. "Six," that Mormon, is for serious reasons. "Squish," the rage, is for passion, and "I loved Al Lipschitz more than I could say," is for love. "Cicero," all those gymnastic arrangements, would represent arranged marriage. Finally Roxie, the star struck housewife, would be for fame, and the heiress, for money. That about covers it.

Archetypes Hidden in the Movie

part 2

That's the easy stuff. The next is a bit technical, but shows an amazing genius in constructing the picture. I'm talking about the song Mr. Cellophane. Amos sings about a man waving an arm, a leg, raising a shout, but nobody notices. This is really good when the archetypes can be screaming loud, and yet not noticed. Cellophane.

"A human being's made of more than air./ With all that bulk, you're bound to see him there./ Unless, of course, ..."

Anatomy question: What part of the body, although made of more than air, is in fact invisible? Give up?

The cornea is that transparent membrane in front of the pupil. So what? Well, besides being vaguely alluded to in the Mr. Cellophane song, it shows up in trick photography in the opening shot. The camera centers on an eye, then moves in until there is a ring of lights reflected off the cornea, then that cornea becomes the middle 'C' in 'CHICAGO'. Okay, the eye before the cornea becomes the 'I' before the 'C', so in effect we end up with: I Cornea.

Early in the film, we hear Roxie's "first" number. An 'I' sometimes represents the Roman numeral one, meaning first. And in Roxie's later monologue, she recounts her first newspaper publicity when a bootlegger was accompanied by a "cute Colleen"—a common enough word for an Irish girl, e.g. "sweet Colleen from Ireland" in "Flower Drum Song," and sort of reminiscent of Chicago's all night jazz joint on Saulsalito and Benson named "Sweet Corrine's."

So, under I Cornea write,
...........First Corrine.

Remember the background right before Roxie's first press interview. There are three kinds of Greek architecture, the most elaborate being what is known as Corinthian, one of the characteristics of which being those entwined leaves on the capital of the pillars. In this shot the pillar we see on the left has those twirly things on top which seem to suggest the elaborate Corinthian architecture. I'm no expert, and don't know if this is strictly accurate, but it's at least suggested. It is, for what it's worth, the explicit courtroom architecture in San Francisco, ref. Richard North Patterson, Conviction381, "... the grandeur of Courtroom One, a lavish mélange of carved Corinthian columns, plaster cupids and flowers, and stained-glass windows filtering a golden light which augmented the intended sense of awe ..., this opulence, an expression of Gilded Age extravagance." It's also the architecture of the county courthouse in Portland, ref. Philip Margolin, After Dark382, "The courtroom was majestic with a high ceiling, marble Corinthian columns and ornate molding."

So all in all, we see suggested First Corinthians 7, the place where Paul talks about marriage. I know this is technical, and only suggested, but it's one of the slickest displays I've ever seen in film.

Okay, the movie gives us the book, then goes on to give us (suggest to us) chapter and verse. Velma's first dance scene, at the start of the movie, opens, "Five, six, seven, eight ..." putting the scene in nine, chapter nine. The stage manager stops in his search for the Kelly sisters to tell a man, "You're on in five." Verse five.

First Corinthians, chapter nine, verse five, is another reference Paul makes to marriage, asking a rhetorical question, doesn't he have the right to marry as does another apostle, or the brethren of the Lord, or Cephas? Going through a process of elimination, the brethren of the Lord would represent marriages paralleling the relationship of Christ to the church, developed by Paul elsewhere. Cephas—Peter—is a marriage where an apostle is married but his wife is not in the ministry, as we see in Matthew where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, but we never see Peter's wife as a Mrs. Apostle. That "other apostle," by context and process of elimination, would be Apollos, who was taught by Priscilla and Aquila, a married gospel team. That, in the types of this movie, is Velma personifying, "a perfect double act."

Roxie gets her reference suggested early on, as Fred Casley was "burgling you three times a week for a month." A week is seven days and a month a twelfth of a year. I Cor. 7:12, the passage on mixed marriage, between a believer and an unbeliever. That's what Roxie is a personification of. She was told by her lawyer not to say, "God, that's good!" but to "Stick where you're better acquainted." And then there was the mismatch with the ugly bootlegger.

Roxie represents the mixed marriage, Velma the matched gospel team, and the movie in large part the envy between the two.

Archetypes Hidden in the Movie

part 3

Now, Billy told Roxie, that when he was done, not only would the jury acquit her, but they would want to take her home to their mothers. Justification and sanctification. Justification is being legally okay, even if only on a technicality, but sanctification is being considered good—take you home and introduce you to mom good. The movie in large part portrays the justification and sanctification of mixed marriage—personified by Roxie—and of marriage in general.

The fight for publicity follows the exposure that these two kinds of marriage, personified by the two dancers, get in the Bible. Velma starts as a star. Priscilla and Aquila start out with all the exposure. In Acts 18:1-4, Paul stays and works with them, moonlighting as a preacher. He travels with them in Acts 18:18. They instruct Apollos in Acts 18:24-26. They are commended by Paul in Romans 16:3-5.

When we get to First Corinthians, mixed marriage is an unknown quantity, and the mixed gospel team—Priscilla and Aquila—is on the stage. If one were to personify the two kinds in a movie, it would be Roxie admiring Velma, wanting her fame.

In First Corinthians, though, the tables get turned. In I Cor. 7:12ff, the mixed marriage of a believer to an unbeliever gets all the attention while Priscilla and Aquila are only vaguely "at the top of my list." Roxie is understandably delighted by all the attention, but Velma in an act of desperation, recounts her former glory, which plays along with past scripture. "What's your sister like? Men." A kind of teaching ministry which they used to enlighten Apollos. And then the second pert where the "parting shots" relate to the salutation, Rom. 16:3-5. Roxie is unimpressed, but she does find Velma mentioned in the paper, in the back by the obituaries, seven words. In fact, Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned in First Corinthians, in the back with the greetings, I Cor. 16:19, "Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." Seventeen words. Wow!

Now, we get to the meat of Paul's philosophy. How was Roxie going to get off? What were her grounds? Well, the jury wasn't going to care at all about her defense unless they cared about her. Preliminary publicity.

Indeed, in First Corinthians, the way is prepared to care about marriage to someone in the world when Paul tells us, I Cor. 3:21-22, "All things are yours; whether ... the world, or things present, or things to come; all are your's." The world being a Christian's can include marriage to an unbeliever. Whether things present, means he was married to her at the time of his conversion to Christ. Whether things to come, means a marriage taking place afterwards, after one had accepted Christ, marriage to an unbeliever. Good background, that.

The defense is twofold. First Paul tells us, I Cor. 7:14a, that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse. "Oh yes, they both reached for the gun." If you are going to kill somebody, you might be convicted of murder, but if your victim were reaching for the gun at the same time, you could get off. The one sanctifies the other.

I Cor. 7:14b tells us that since the children of a mixed marriage are holy, the marriage itself is clean. "Don't Hang my Baby."

Both points get played up in the film. Then there is the hanging of the Hunyak, who is innocent. Seeing that, causes Roxie to wise up and heed the advice of her lawyer, which saves her life and sets her free. The innocent party died to save the guilty one(s). But that is what Christ did, according to Paul.

Her "Hungarian disappearing act" depicts Christ's death on the cross. She prepares, with a cross on the wall, and then crossed herself. Her hanging is sad and traumatic, as Christ's death was, but Christians rejoice at the empty tomb, as the crowd cheered the empty noose. Christ paid for all our sanctification.

The trial itself is reminiscent of preaching. "Back since the days of old Methuselah/ Everyone loves the big bamboozle-ah." Noah preached in those days. We should be hearing preachers preach God's word to understand its message.

Archetypes Hidden in the Movie

part 4

Okay, there is one point of doubt when Velma reads from Roxie's diary to the court. "The big baboon had it coming. He reneged on his pledge, and that was my motive for killing him."

Billy in his tapdance points out that's a pretty fancy way to say he welshed on a deal, so I shot him. Sounded more like a lawyerese, so the blame got shifted to the asst. D.A. doctoring the book, and Roxie got off.

That's similar to what we find in I Cor. 7, where Paul says a widow may marry whomever she will, "only in the Lord" (vs. 39). At first blush it sounds like Paul is saying the widow, and presumably any Christian, must marry only to another Christian. But, no, if you look at it closer, that is not the plain teaching of Paul, as he teaches plainly elsewhere, but a different thought altogether. The reference is to the thought in I Tim. 5:11-12, that a widow remarrying runs the danger of "waxing wanton against Christ," therefore must marry only in the Lord, meaning not wantonly against Christ, be it to a Christian or no.

In fact the New International Version™ trying to interpret Paul in a way that would find Roxie guilty, reworks "only in the Lord," to say her intended "must belong to the Lord." That is not the simpler English the NIV™ espouses, but a reworking of the thought to say something Paul did not clearly say in the first place. Note that I am not quoting from the NIV™ in this review.

Okay, to wind this up, Roxie gets instantly forgotten, just as the subject of mixed marriage gets forgotten by the time Paul gets to his Second Corinthians. "Who can keep them straight?" By the time we are reading Second Corinthians, we're not thinking about mixed marriage, or even marriage anymore.

Only by teaming up with Velma, does she, they, get back in the spotlight. Of course, in II Corinthians, there's the passage (II Cor. 6:14a) where Paul says, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." He is talking about Christian ministry here, to be sure, and not marriage per se, but as Priscilla and Aquila were a gospel team laboring in the lord, their labor would be covered here. And so both the girls can get back into the limelight because of it, through the agency of one of the lord's parables. Yep, not the sweaty nightclub—epistle—but the Chicago Theater—gospel parable.

We take the frame of reference of the guy who decides to get married and his marriage will be sanctified because he is teaming up with a matched Christian worker to be equally yoked together. Since that yoking refers to labor, he is in effect receiving the sanctification as a payment for labor, a penny a day, say. Lends itself to the parable.

The guy who marries another Christian who is not a part of his ministry, but an aid, is the guy who comes along a little later and will labor for whatever degree of sanctification he gets. Then a little later in the day come the two Christians who marry to live out the relationship between Christ and the church, not in the ministry as such, but doing their share for the Lord. And the last hour of the day comes the Christian who married a nonbeliever and must live out his Christian life before her or him in hopes it will lead to a conversion.

Billy takes what Amos can pay, saying he plays fair.

At the end of the day they all get paid, but payment starts with the last first ("Shouldn't it be alphabetical?"). Roxie gets her complete sanctification in I Cor. 7, the mixed marriage. But the other marriages referred to in I Cor. 9, get nothing added to the sanctification of the first. Roxie and Velma sort of put their heads together at the end and enjoy the accolades.

In the parable there is envy on the part of the full day laborer having borne the heat and burden of the day and receiving nothing more than did the one who worked but an hour. That heat and burden of the day represents the "trouble in the flesh" that Paul says they who marry will have, the burden of the day being the extra labor in the light required of a Christian with a Christian spouse, and the heat the extra trouble of working on their spiritual compatibility. Naturally, if one marries an even matchup for Christian labor—from the pool of the "few chosen"—, it might not be the best matchup in the flesh, but if one expands his selection to include even unbelievers—from the pool of the "many called"—, he might do better in the flesh, provoking envy from the one who had more of a burden. But it' s God's money, sanctification, to dispense with as He pleases, and He's done the equally yoked laborer no wrong in that He sanctified his marriage indeed. It's just that he sanctifies others as well. As Velma said, "You've got to put it behind you."

At any rate, this particular envy plays out well in the film as an archetype.

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Chicago Movie Review