DVD Review: Flashdance (1983) -- I Love the 80's Widescreen Edition

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Essentially, Flashdance is a movie that's most memorable for the categories for which the film received Academy Award nominations in 1984 (following its release one year earlier)-- namely the music especially the wonderful Irene Cara tune "Flashdance... What a Feeling" which garnered the film's only statue as well as its competing nominee "Maniac," along with Donald Peterman's cinematography and the editing by Bud S. Smith and Walt Mulconery.

Simply put-- with the music, the photography and the quick edits that hide the fact that the beautiful and young talented actress Jennifer Beals did barely one step of dancing throughout its 94 minute running time-- Flashdance, much like the other '80s works by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer was basically a surface level music video without much in the way of plot or substance. Moreover, it's the type of salacious film for which director Adrian Lyne would become famous.

Releasing as part of VH1's I Love the 80's Collection with a 4 track mini-CD of '80s hits including Echo & the Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar," Erasure's "Chains of Love," INXS' "Need You Tonight," and a-ha's "Take On Me," the film is presented in a high quality widescreen transfer offering English 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound, French 2.0 surround as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

As pretty as the roses offered to Beals by the film's equally dreamy star Michael Nouri (who beat out Kevin Costner for the role) yet as equally filled with unlikable thorns-- Flashdance basically plays-- as many have argued and I mentioned before-- like a series of pre-Madonna era music videos in a way that make the John Travolta dance films (including Grease and Saturday Night Fever) look downright Shakespearean.

Inspired by a visit to a Toronto strip club (never a good sign!) and more precisely, the life of Maureen Marder who worked as a welder by day and shook her moneymaker by night while dreaming of making it as a professional dancer, Showgirls screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and co-writer Tom Hedley relocated the plot-line to the steel town of Pittsburgh.

And in doing so-- the two who received a Razzie nomination for the worst screenplay of the year for a film that's thin on plot but heavy on stereotypes-- seasoned their script with more blue-collar Cinderella fare by giving Marder's sexually aggressive eighteen year old alter ego Alex Owens (Beals) a "fairy godmother" in the form of a dancer mentor, a hobby of trying to play Miss Fix-It in offering advice to her fellow showgirls, adding a four-legged sidekick named Grunt (just in case we didn't get the base instincts of the script or Beals' Alex who asks her dog if he got laid today upon returning home from work) and a bicycle that she's able to ride and lean against buildings and fences without locking up.

Although she welds and reads Vogue by day (perhaps an inside nod to Beals who'd been a cover model of the prestigious fashion magazine), her true passion is dancing as she works in a phony nightclub in the evenings, coming up with elaborate routines and costumes along with fellow dancers like Tina Tech (Dirty Dancing's Cynthia Rhodes) that incorporate expensive looking sets, props, and lighting schemes right out of a Hollywood film as opposed to the film's setting and despite never taking off their clothes-- as Roger Ebert declares-- they're unbelievably "never... shouted at by the customers for not doing so."

And although she has a close-call one night in the parking lot with a creep, the club is fairly chaste. However, she does enchant the boss of her construction company played by Michael Nouri as a Porsche driving yuppie who says all the right things and never gets fresh, incredulously becoming the one nearly assaulted by Beals who famously removed her bra from underneath that collar-less sweatshirt (an accidental fashion trend started when the actress mistakenly shrunk her wardrobe) and became the quintessential Simpson and Bruckheimer gender reversal aggressor.

As Peter Biskind argued in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the duo have a penchant for repackaging gay movies for straight audiences. And more than any perhaps, Alex is the one who started the trend in their first project as a woman given a man's name, acting as the forward seducer (in one scene dressed in a male suit as she describes their sex life in a tawdry phrase when faced with his ex) and ultimately hands him back a rose he gives to her as though she were the film's knight in a shiny leotard as well as it's token princess. Are you confused enough yet?

Beals is lovely in her role although it's a shame that Marder (who was only paid a paltry $2,300 for the rights to her life in a film that's grossed over a hundred million despite Paramount's less than optimistic expectations) wasn't included more in the work. When you couple this with the fact that Beals' main dance double Marine Jahan (with supporting work completed by Crazy Legs and Sharon Shapiro) was "kept hidden from the press"-- disturbingly, thus instead of celebrating the talents of the real women whose work helped make it a smash success, they're ultimately shoved aside as stepping stones in creating this MTV-like male fantasy film.

Worth a look simply for the marvelous showstopping dance routines that honestly should have been released as their own That's Entertainment! styled film without the hokey plot-- despite the fact that that would mean women would have to give up Michael Nouri-- while it's still a hit and Cara's "What a Feeling" track will remain in your head for days after you hit eject, unfortunately it's still one of the least impressive '80s dance movies.

And additionally, aside from trying to market it strictly for women-- with its emphasis on workout scenes and super-tight body close-ups, it's essentially the type of music videos for teenage boys that continues to reign supreme on MTV... when, that is-- they actually play music.