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Flashdance


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#1 Tim Partridge

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 02:14 PM

I hadn't seen this movie in a long, long time, but found a "special collector's edition" with a few extras for £2.50!

The first thing to be said about Flashdance, and probably the most important thing to say about Flashdance, is that I think it doesn't look or play like a coherent, narrative film. Instead, it feels like a random compilation of the one hundred most influential TV commercials of all time. Every scene feels like a totally separate TV commercial, with no consistent style throughout the film. The approach may have worked for the later Grace Jones Slave to the Rhthym music video, but for a narrative feature it's too much. Towards the end of the final shot of every scene I was expecting a brand logo to appear in the bottom left hand corner, or a voice over telling me I should buy a product. Even scenes set in reoccuring locations at reoccuring times are shot with totally different camera angles, coverage and even at times lighting.

Looking at it now I find the overall effect frankly exhausting, especially as Flashdance is a seemingly plotless 90 minute film. There's no real tension or conflict in the story, it's just about a very middle class teenager, who chooses to live an image heavy, working class lifestyle, dreaming of becoming a dancer while dating her boss. She eventually achieves her dreams through nepotism and some morally disappointing, life experience conclusions. Oh, and one of her friends leaves his dayjob to perform as a stand up artist. Looking at the film in this age of stupid budgets and too much CGI, it sure would be refreshing to see a lowish budget Chick flick hit the big time again.

Adrian Lyne, of course, was a pioneering commercials director, who went on to become the master of steamy, psycho-sexuality movies. I do appreciate some of the commercials derived design mise en scene choices, particularly the gutting of diagetic sound in favour of pure music to visually carrie scenes (the alleyway breakdance for example), which Lyne himself and his peers had only borrowed from Godard and co originally.

Lyne was easily the most cerebral of the British commercials directors of the 70s and 80s (I'd put Hugh Hudson in second), and I do like that it is not just his art direction and lighting that is bold, but also his casting, down to the humourous, practically Richard Lester influenced extras casting. I also really like how he is as adept at wide angle lenses as much as he is with long lenses, which makes him more visually diverse than say either Ridley or Tony Scott, in my opinion.

If there's one image or sequence in Flashdance that truly broke ground then I'd have to say that was the ice skating scene. Looking at it today, those dynamic, wide-angle dirties of the skating shoes, shooting dead on into backlight, set an above standard bar for ice skating scenes that barely anyone has even bothered to equal since.

One thing I do find quesitonable about Flashdance is the strobe dance number. In this post-Pokeman era of epilepsy awareness, could you hold an intense thirty second shot like that on the big screen today? If not, how come this DVD wasn't censored?

Flashdance is a beautiful looking film (I think the available light moments are when Don Peterman's own signature as a DP stand out), textbook for commercial visuals, but as I said, I think it is a pretty plotless failure as a narrarive feature. I actually find the visually flatter, Flashdance-a-like Footloose much more accesssible, just because it's story is told in a much more traditionally classical manner, which is easier to digest than one hundred random TV commercials.

Please, post away on the influence of Flashdance. I know quite a few DPs like Adam Frisch refer to this movie, still.
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#2 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 05:51 PM

Funnily enough i watched this the other night for the first time in years. The visuals are pretty stunning - the movie less so.
Do any of the dvd extras cover Don Petermans work?
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#3 Tim Partridge

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 06:45 PM

There's a little featurette called "The Look of Flashdance" which emphasises how much of a visual stylist Adrian Lyne is (who could argue?), but Peterman's name isn't mentioned once. You hear various crew members talk about how Lyne loved his sets smoked up, so his first takes were sometimes too smoked (to the point of appearing like fire smoke). Mainly though the featurette focuses on the costumes.

I don't think it's unfair to give the authorship of the Flashdance visuals to Lyne, given how similar the film looks to his other movies (and especially his commercials). That said, I think Peterman's renowned knack for shooting wide open in available/low light (which he'd do so memorably on Splash, Cocoon and Star Trek IV as well) greatly helped Lyne achieve the look he was pursuing with this. I don't think Flashdance goes as all out "porno" glossy as say Lyne's work with Biziou/Atherton - there is a bit of dirty grit in Flashdance, which helps with the stylist depicted welding/working class Pitsburgh backdrop.
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#4 Mark Norman

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 09:34 PM

Interesting thread.

I really like Don Peterman's work in Cocoon, especially the pool scenes.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 02:32 AM

You're right Tim - it's a reference piece for me. I love how it's shot. But then again I've always loved Adrian Lyne's visual style and in my book he
rarely does anything wrong. Just his last film Unfaithful, although not as smoky and in your face as his older stuff, still retains that delicious brit-revolution
slickness. Beautifully shot by Peter Biziou, BSC.
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#6 Tom Lowe

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 08:20 AM

Notable for one of the best endings ever. When the babe is dancing and the old judge is tapping his foot....lol. Then she pulls off an amazing routine and gets accepted at the dance school. She runs out of the building and the boyfriend is waiting there with the Porsche and the pitbull wearing a ribbon... "WHAT A FEELING!" :lol:
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#7 Phil Connolly

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 01:14 PM

On the epilepsy front, for some reason DVD's aren't censored. For TV broadcast (in the UK at least) films have to pass a Harding test and then be 'fixed' for broadcast - for the worst example of this see Aliens next time its on channel 4.

In the cinema the screen is much darker than a TV screen and as such doens't trigger Epilepsy as much as watching the same material on a TV.

Still flash dance is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, I mean whats not to like?


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