Crowd Pleasers II

film 2 of 5

Strictly Ballroom

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

Here, right from the very get go, we have the shape of Baz to come: I find this to be a great commercial film, which wants very much to be liked but doesn’t grovel or compromise itself for the favour; that ingratiating semi-impertinence is in the film’s sharp parody, its near mockery of a lunatic fringe of marginal compulsives (the ballroom community, of course); it never quite becomes cruel, mind, because though the filmmakers are winking, the characters aren’t: their single-mindedness & devotion &, yes, their artistry is given as much attention & honour as the foibles & eccentricities that are a bi-product of all those good things;

The Ugly Duckling/Fran sub-plot is charmingly fresh, which is quite a trick given how clichéd it sounds if you summarize it; I like the silly Spanish stuff, the funny screaming girl, the glowering protagonist; I really like the glowering protagonist’s parents, who are quite a joy, in addition to carrying a pleasingly mysterious sub-plot: old Doug is actually, practically a flipped version of Mr. Rochester’s shame-shrouded mad wife from Jane Eyre!

Furthermore, intertextually speaking, the truth-bending accounts of the evil Raymond Fife aspire & sort of rise to something of a Citizen Kane/Rashomon effect: this is Yertle the Turtle, setting his own self up for a fall; this is a bold, brash vulgarity that ends up being quite productive, not to mention much or most of what this burgeoning auteur will be offering the world;

Am I getting this wrong? Am I making you mad? Strictly Ballroom is especially fun, especially courageous, or maybe just oblivious, for its unblinking exposé of the hilarious unattractiveness of this harsh-faced, strident-voiced Australian population—

I believe, I sense that it would be proper to open myself up to a rebuttal at this point …