Willa's Flic Pic: Strictly Ballroom * * * *
Baz Luhrmann, 1992
The films in Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy are engaging, melodramatic, fun, intoxicating, and fantastical. They're an adventure and a ride. He transports you to what, by description, are familiar places – an Australian Dance studio, modern day Los Angeles, and the Moulin Rouge in 1899 Paris. But, as energetic as these places are known to be, they are nothing compared to Luhrmann's depiction of them in Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!.
The Red Curtain requires some basics. One is that the audience knows how it will end when it begins, it is fundamental that the story is extremely thin and extremely simple - that is a lot of labour. Then it is set in a heightened, created world. Then there is a device - the heightened world of Strictly Ballroom, Verona beach. Then there is another device - dance or iambic pentameter or singing, and that's there to keep the audience awake and engaged. The other thing is that this piece was to be a comic tragedy. This is an unusual form, there's been a few goes at it - [like] Dancer in the Dark - but it's not common in Western cinematic form. - Baz Luhrmann
Luhrmann works with sound, fast editing, perspective but, mostly, color. He uses all of these effectively to give the film energy, heightened mood, and bigger-than-life people and settings. Mainly, they are used to create intimacy and interaction with the audience. You sing; you dance; you fall in love. My Geek and I saw Strictly Ballroom when it was released in 1992 in one of the art theaters in Dallas. It not only became "our film" for several years it also influenced us to take a few dance lessons.
In the first film of the trilogy, Strictly Ballroom, Scott is a ballroom dance champion. He comes from a family of ballroom dancers. He is the golden child of the family. Where some families strive for their children to become doctors, Scott is expected to be the next Australian Pan Pacific Latin Dance Champion. But Scott has an unrest brewing inside of him. It's a rebellion to simply learn the same steps his parents learned and their parents before them, and that it's time for new steps. But new steps aren't recognized by the Federation and, not only will prevent Scott from winning the championship, could disqualify him from ever competing again. His dance partner leaves him, his mother is having a breakdown and Scott simply doesn't know what to do.
Enter Fran, a beginning dance student who believes in Scott and his new steps. In an audacious move, she asks Scott if she can be his new partner and go to the Australian Pan Pacific Latin Dance Championship doing their own steps. While he admires Fran's courage, Scott easily caves to the pressure from his family, the dance community and the Federation. Fran is humiliated and rejected after risking so much to come into her own.
This film is so funny and so much fun. It's a modern and unique Cinderella story with a Rocky ending that you'll rewind and play over and over again. Everyone should have a little dance in their lives… and a little Baz Luhrmann.
Labels: Movie Reviews