Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Hungry Eyes

I may not have quite had the time of my life but I must confess feelings of innocent joy in watching Dirty Dancing on the big screen.

As a single adult male, such emotions are not easy to admit. Indeed, it is fair to say the staff at City Screen were rather amused when they saw my awkward figure walk through the door.

The cult 1980s chick flick is a better film than those outside its insanely devoted following can appreciate. It took me 21 years to finally see Baby and Johnny Castle (what a name!) strut their stuff. After an amiable afternoon at the cinema, I’m glad I put my reservations aside and took the plunge.

Of course, the story itself is complete tosh. A rich teenager (Jennifer Grey) falls for her hunky dance teacher (Patrick Swayze) while on holiday at a luxury country resort. But because it is the early 1960s, anything more adventurous than holding hands between partners is taboo. The twists and turns of these young lovers’ summer affair is easily predictable, though it is a proven formula for success at the box office.

Equally unsurprising, based on the film’s famous reputation, is the booming soundtrack. Typical eighties dance tracks are one thing but the sixties soul which dominates the first act is something much closer to my own heart. Smooth, cool and very groovy, each piece of period music sets the tone for a bouncing and satisfyingly energetic show.

Less expected is the skill with which Emile Ardolino directs his various sequences and montages. Everyone knows about the lift in the water but what about the rest of the Rocky-esque routine, the fleeting landscape shots and the perfection of Johnny Castle’s leather jacket? The dance movements do not match the suffocating precision of Black Swan or cheese of Grease but are still infectiously fun.

Patrick Swayze embodies seduction in sunglasses, his swaggering lothario rocks around the screen, swooning audience members’ hearts in the process. His on-screen partner Jennifer Grey reaches a career peak with her role as the idealistic teenager. Reckon you have seen her before? Well, arguably her most famous other movie appearance was as Ferris Bueller’s sister.

Watch the trailer for more Dirty Dancing action.


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