Shameless 1970s Disco Musical Movies!
Raymisra on 11/13/2007
|"The Wiz"? "Grease"? "Xanadu"? "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"? "The Apple"? "Can't Stop The Music"?|
While others cringe and recoil and the mere mention of these movies, I salivate. I can say with absolute lack of sarcasm or irony that I love this whole cinematic sub-genre.
Why? Maybe for the same reason I enjoy their stylistic cousin, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show": because they combine opulence, subversive humor, unapologetic late 70s sensuality, and a philosophical and aesthetic sensibility that combines the last gasp of post-Woodstock, post-Altamont hippie idealism with self-indulgent, blank-check Hollywood coke binge wankery.
Am I getting overly pretentious yet? If so, how pretentious? Peter Keough pretentious? Or maybe just Rex Reed pretentious? Rex levels of pretension are okay. For God's sake, if I make it to Keough levels of pretension, please, dear God, shoot me.
Anyway, you could make the case that most of these movies bombed catastrophically. I'll just point out that the same is true of "Rocky Horror." George Kaufman reminds us that satire closes on Saturday night, and the jokes and social commentary in both "Rocky" and a shameless disco musical (SDM) fly fast and furious, as they do in any satire. So naturally they open Friday and close Saturday. Now, I've thrown as many pieces of toast and shouted as many "neck lines" as the next guy, but at the same time, I feel it's a shame that they had to dumb down the appeal of RHPC to make it a hit, and I would love for someone to rediscover the original film someday. On that day, we may be truly ready for the SDM, too.
One more thought on the SDM: for some reason, it's always a disco-ized take on something else. "Grease" is the 1950s through a disco prism. "Xanadu" is a classic 1940s Hollywood musical through that same lens. "The Wiz"? I hardly even need to say what that looks at. On one hand, I suppose it's self-indulgent to re-interpret all these enduring touchstones of our culture through this evanescent culture of excess and ornate baroquery that crashed and burned before Carter was even collecting his refunded damage deposit on the White House. On the other hand, it's certainly ambitious to filter our past through what was, at the time, our present. And it was a damn fascinating, complicated, glorious mess of a present--take it from someone who was there, even if I was just a kid--to see our past filtered through. And such an undertaking invites self-indulgence's less ugly, more commendable sibling: AMBITION. SDMs are rewarding because their scope--even if it's by accident--is so AMBITIOUS. Make of that what you will.
So, I spent a few hours on this one, and I think it's pretty good. Or maybe it's just the same kind of self-indulgent, unsatisfying, shallow frippery that I'm celebrating. You must judge for yourself, and to do so, you must click that little orange button. I'll be interested in knowing what you thought.
Oh, and be sure to hug your local pretentious film critic/theorist today. they need it. Really, it's a transparent cry for help.
Special thanks to IMDB and Wikipedia.
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