Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Saturday Night Fever

An intensely pessimistic film in which nobody gets what they want. It's hilarious to think that Paramount saw the soundtrack album sales and thought slashing out a gang rape and all instances of the word cunt would somehow make this film palatable to the Grease crowd. As a prank it's up there with releasing Only God Forgives at the height of Summer (I know of a few people who popped in expecting something in the same vein as Channing Tatum's Fighting). Saturday Night Fever isn't an uplifting love story, it's a succession of punishing events in which people are forced to shut up and eat shit.

John Travolta is Tony Manero, a coke thin lizard with a rubbish job and a worse family. Manero's one bright spot is a weekly, financially debilitating, trip to the local disco, the 2001 Odyssey. Once inside Manero talks like a Mod and dances like a God. Crowds part, slinking back to the club's corners to admire Manero's cavorting. Manero is selfish and self-involved, but somehow the praise he receives in the Odyssey doesn't bleed over into how he conducts himself in his civilian life. Although by no means meek, there's a certain reticence to his behaviour.

The quiet futility of his job, not to mention some outright aggression from his parents, keep him in a holding pattern. Manero compartmentalises his abilities as if slightly embarrassed by them. The status they confer is transient, they're not helping him put any food on the table either. Manero judges himself by the limits his parents embody, he knows they won't care for his talents so he doesn't dare share them. He's serious about the craft though. The finale dance off sees Manero and his partner Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) drifting into a dreamy stupor that simulates the tranquillised fizz of love. The local crowd lap it up. Tony knows it's all bullshit, so he hands his prize off to an electrified Latin dance couple and tries to force himself on a disinterested Stephanie.

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