Flashdance ★★

Watched as part of the June 2016 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
My list: letterboxd.com/jasonpettus/list/scavenger-hunt-15-june-2016
Master list: letterboxd.com/joyceheinen/list/scavenger-hunt-15-june-2016
Task #2: A film your mother loves

2016 movie viewings, #56. So yes, this scavenger hunt choice is a bit of a cheat, in that it's not necessarily one of my mom's favorite movies -- my mom tends to not make declarations like that when it comes to popular media, but is more one of those proverbial "I just watch whatever's on" kind of people, who generally left it up to my dad, brother and I to make the film choices when I was growing up. The reason I picked this, though, is that I have this very clear memory of going and seeing Flashdance with my mom and aunt in the theater when it first came out in 1983, which was unusual because they were really adamant about wanting to see this movie specifically, while I was only ho-hum on the idea; and the reason this is still such a distinct memory even 33 years later is that it was the first time in my life I had seen a naked woman in front of my mom (and with me being a pre-internet 14-year-old at the time, one of the first times I had ever seen a naked woman period), and I remember being just so mortally embarrassed by the entire experience, something that for some reason has lodged in my brain ever since.

This is the first time I've seen it since then -- or, well, the first time since it ran without end on cable the year after its theatrical release -- and I was kind of disappointed to learn that my opinion about it has not changed even the slightest bit even three decades later; it's simply a piece of empty schlock, shot less like a narrative movie and more like a string of four-minute music videos, the first time such a movie had ever been shot that way (these were the same years MTV first started invading homes as well), an unexpectedly huge blockbuster that essentially inspired an entire decade of empty, flashy, MTV-style Hollywood movies afterwards. In fact, this is almost only worthwhile anymore just for its historical aspect; for this was the first project not only by producing team Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (who would go on to perfect this look in other '80s hits like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop) but also writer Joe Eszterhas (who would eventually give us such infamous cheese as Basic Instinct and Showgirls), not to mention director Adrian Lyne (whose next two films after this would be 9 1/2 Weeks and Fatal Attraction).

All of these films, all of these careers, singlehandedly came about because of the enormous and surprise juggernaut that Flashdance became, which is ironic because the movie was expected by everyone to be a huge flop, which is why these fishmongers were all assigned to it in the first place. (Back when he was a studio executive, Bruckheimer was despised by his co-workers, and was specifically given this project in the hopes that it would ruin him and drive him out of the industry for good; he was the one who assembled everyone else, all of whom had just started their careers and were so far languishing in B-pic '70s drive-in hell.) The movie's been largely forgotten in the years since, so it's hard to explain what a cultural phenomenon it was -- for years afterwards, you still saw ripped sweatshirts in two-bit mall stores with "What a Feeling!" splashed across them, and of course let's not forget that this was the film that introduced mainstream America to breakdancing and parachute pants as well. It's basically the movie that made the '80s what it turned out being, for better or for worse (well, mostly worse), and for that alone Flashdance is worth remembering and occasionally revisiting; but purely as an entertainment experience, it's a pretty bad stinker that was never good in the first place, and now ridiculously dated in all kinds of places. (And seriously, what's up with that stripclub where they all work and hang out, the kind of place you would only see in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, located in a seedy neighborhood of Pittsburgh but run like a full Vaudevillian cabaret, with multiple sets and constant costume changes and everyone perfectly satisfied that the strippers never show anything besides occasional flashes of their breasts.) A good watch for film students who wish to understand the transition between '70s and '80s Hollywood and why that transition happened, it can be pretty safely skipped by everyone else.

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