Bloated, miscast, and ridiculous, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is one of those old-school film adaptations of Broadway shows that’s tacky enough to make some people swear off musicals forever. Every single thing about this movie is artificial, from the unbelievable love relationship at the center of the story to the stylized sets on which the action unfolds. Worse, the songs (by Burton Lane and the legendary Alan Jay Lerner) are forgettable and saccharine. That said, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is fascinatingly weird, because the underlying narrative is borderline perverse. When the tale begins, a psychiatrist (Yves Montand) works with a neurotic young woman (Barbra Streisand) to cure her smoking addiction, only to discover that she vividly recalls her past lives; in short order, the psychiatrist falls in love with one of his patient’s past selves, then contrives reasons to hypnotize the modern woman so he can court someone who’s been dead for a century. Furthermore, the shrink is about 30 years his patient’s senior—and the young woman has ESP, and she’s considering leaving her fiancée for her stepbrother (Jack Nicholson). Kinky!
Much of this material was added for the movie (Lerner wrote the screenplay, and old-school musical pro Vincente Minnelli directed), which means the team behind the film of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever deemed this plot an improvement over the stage version. Since the story is such a mess, the meager appeal of this picture is mostly attributable to Streisand’s charms. In addition to her magnificent singing voice, she showcases her considerable light-comedy chops, and she looks more beautiful here than in almost any other movie: During flashbacks as her character’s 19th-century alter ego, Streisand is downright ravishing in low-cut gowns and ornate hairstyles. So, if nothing else, it’s easy to see why the shrink falls for “Melinda,” the 19th-century character, even if it’s difficult to see why anyone fell for the narrative when the show appeared on Broadway. Apparently, on a clear day you can’t see plot holes.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever: FUNKY