Monday, 7 February 2011

80s Movies: Flashdance (1983)

What a feeling! Flashdance pretty much carved a niche for "I wanna be a dancer" movies, with Jennifer Beals (The Book of Eli, The Search for One-Eye Jimmy) as exotic dancer and welder Alex Owens. Cue dance sequences and 80s anthems only really ever rivalled by Fame and perhaps Dirty Dancing, and you've got the recipe for a legendary movie.

Unlike some of the other films we've covered so far in our 80s movies series, Flashdance really hasn't aged well. I don't mean that it's no longer enjoyable - or that it's not still a great movie, in fact - but, unlike some of the others, it's totally tied into the time in which it was made.

A strong female lead, an industrial backdrop and very, very 1980s music make it as much a time capsule as it is a movie - watching it transports those who were there (well, I was born two months after its release, but I grew up in the 80s) back to a unique and changing time.

The Plot

It's not hugely complex - Beals wants to be a dancer. And she is, sort of, but more of the exotic kind than the ballet dancer she'd like to be. Flashdance follows her story as she plucks up the courage to audition for a place at the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. It's a story of struggling against adversity, finding inner strength, and lots of dancing.

Some of you are probably objecting to my suggestion above that Flashdance was responsible for cementing (or should that be welding...?) the "I wanna be a dancer" premise as a social meme of its time, given that Fame was released three years earlier. I'd argue that Fame is not about any one character, but is an ensemble piece, whereas Flashdance and 1987's Dirty Dancing are much more concerned with a single wannabe dancer - as, for that matter, is 1995's Showgirls.

The Music

Flashdance... What a Feeling is a further link with Fame, as Irene Cara sang both films' themes. From an almost TRON-like opening synth motif, it builds to as defiant a chorus as I can ever recall hearing. It's very, very 80s, yet continues to be loved to the present day - and is a karaoke favourite wherever cheesy performances are welcomed.

Modern-day homages to the film and song include 2001's cover of It's Raining Men by Geri Halliwell, the video to which opens with a recreation of Flashdance's final scene, while comedian Robert Webb won the 2009 Let's Dance for Comic Relief competition with a truly unique take on Beals' dance from the film.

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

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