vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias
Baz Luhrmann's first film. Some nobody from Australia. A romance about ballroom dancing. But, we loved it.
Scott Hastings pushes the bounds of the competition standards and shows off, and the documentary-style interviews are hilarious. Like it is the biggest tragedy any of them ever saw; the guy in the sequined outfit danced like he was having a good time. The horror.
Meanwhile, it occurs to me that a big gap in this blog has been films made in other countries. (And this one even leaves its Spanish often untranslated.) There haven't been many. Barely a few. Hell, I can only think of two offhand filmed outside the US (or Canada)--Mad Max Fury Road and Luhrmann's later film Moulin Rouge! . Oh, I guess there were a few spaghetti westerns in here as well.
But nevermind brainstorming all the movies this blog has covered in four years. The fairy tale feel of this one. Liz doesn't want to dance with Scott anymore, wants Ken Railings to come in and says his partner Pam Short broke both her legs and he wants to dance with her, and sure enough, CUT TO an over-the-top-for-a-soap-opera car crash involving Pam, and Ken comes right through the door and wants to dance with Liz. Which leaves Scott with three weeks to the next competition and no partner. And it's lovely. And it's silly.
And, like White Nights which I ended up only writing about once, there's some great dancing in this thing. And Luhrmann knows how to shoot it.
Insert Fran as the ugly-duckling beginner who wants to dance with Scott. She's been dancing with a girl for 2 years, he's been dancing since he was 6, but he needs someone, she wants him, and of course there's romance looming. But, all the movie has to do is put them in a room by themselves and let them dance. Because, dance done right, and filmed right, is just as good as silly banter you might get in your usual romantic comedy. Better than the banter you get in most, actually. Plus, Fran is a cinematic ugly duckling, which means she's a little plain maybe, but dress her up and remove the glasses and she's now cinematic hot.
Give her her own dance steps, her own family side plot, and the conspirators in the big dance organizations easily become the villain, wanting Scott to team up with Tina Sparkle, whose partner is retiring. It's effectively a reverse Cinderella. Like the Prince found Cinderella in her attic, they spent many an evening dancing together, and then her stepsisters are set up to meet him.
But, right when he might find himself dancing with a champion, he realizes (but doesn't say, of course, because dancing communicates it better) that he's got feelings for Fran just like she has feelings for him.
And then I find myself just sitting here watching because it has been a while, and Luhrmann when he doesn't have the budget to go too big, is amazing.
It's only now, glancing at trivia on IMDb that I realized why so much of this movie plays so damn well--Luhrmann began the story as an improvised play while he was involved in dance competitions like those in the film, and there was an amateur stage version before there was a film version. That's a lot of testing of character, of plot turns, and all that really needed done was the fancy photography and, I'm betting, some more expensive costumes.