Whenever the Wind Shifts, Chim Chim Cher-ee

”November” photographic print available in the shop

 
Every once in a while there is a soundtrack song that stays with me long after I’ve watched the film. There are many good film songs, but not all of them have this staying power. I think it has much to do with the time and mood of when you are watching the film. It doesn’t even have to be an original song composed for the movie (I am thinking about the Just Like Honey, by The Jesus and Mary Chain from Lost in Translation), or it may have everything to do with the creation of a very specific and unique music for a film, like Ennio Morricone’s distinctive whistle theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of the most instantly recognizable elements in the history of cinema. Or it can be Chim Chim Cher-ee, sung by Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins (1964).

My son likes musicals, so one evening last week we watched Mary Poppins. It was the right call even for my sworn-in “Noirvember” evenings, and we all loved it. I loved the feeling that it gave you that Mary Poppins has a secret life, that she’s someone different than her prim appearance. And children love something and someone different, don’t they? They are drawn to her because she is real yet capable of all those magical things, maybe even hinting at something dark underneath. I keep coming back to the words of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller: “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.” When all is cheesy and cheeky all the time, how can you know the meaning of magic? That’s why I am so keen on classic fairy tales for children, where they can see both mystery and truth, good and bad, on exposing them to a world of fantasy through books and films. And I also believe they have to discover these worlds when they are young enough to still have that sense of wonder intact.

As for the song Chim Chim Cher-ee (just listen to it), there is a mystery to those lyrics and sounds evoking a much darker and introspective lore than what first meets the ear and watching the film this time of year infuses the film with an even much more eerie feeling. I have been playing the song to my son several times a day since we watched the film and we both sit in silence as we listen, each keeping one’s thoughts to oneself, each trying to conspiringly hide the twinkle in our eyes. I swear I won’t be surprised if on one of our daily forest walks we see Mary Poppins stepping down from the sky when we sense a shift of wind. Just as I wouldn’t be surprised if I stumbled upon Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. And come December, I am sure we will find new meaning to Chim Chim Cher-ee.
 

Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins”, 1964 | Walt Disney

 
 

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