Deconstructing “Flashdance”

Jennifer Beals is a maniac. Well, her dance double was.

What’s there to deconstruct? The film’s already in pieces. Oh! But really, Flashdance had the makings, the nuts if you will, of a good film, but no bolts to hold it all together. It marks the first collaboration between Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer who went on to produce Top Gun and Beverley Hills Cop and features a writing credit by the godfather of camp, Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Showgirls). So what went wrong?

“I want my MTV”

Upon its release, critics had slammed Flashdance, deeming it a series of music videos rather than a movie. Despite the poor critical reception, it was a mega success at the box office and it makes sense if you think about it. By 1983, video had killed the radio star mercilessly. MTV had been around for a couple of years, supplanting its presence in pop culture and elevating the commercial value of short form media (i.e. the music video). In doing this, MTV popularized a trend of fast-paced visual edits in a short amount of time, best translated in film as “the montage”.

Unlike Team America‘s montage, Flashdance‘s montages (yes, plural) are loosely tied to the plot. There is a workout montage the film could easily do without and the romance between Alex (Jennifer Beals) and Nick (Michael Nouri) blossoms through a montage.

In addition to those sequences is a good 10 minutes (of which most I fast forwarded) devoted to little moments of Pittsburg street culture that add nothing to the story, but perhaps shed light on the cultural milieu that sprouted Alex Owens? Perhaps, but the way it is presented it feels like and is filler. No character development, not even any character involvement, those scenes were just there. They stick out like a sore thumb, but not as much as the following scene, which is pure Joe Eszterhas:

Somewhere in all of that is a thin story line sensationalized by numerous, often overlong dance sequences. So when Jennifer Lopez or Geri Halliwell decided to borrow Flashdance‘s famous preparatory audition scene, the decision made sense because Flashdance, at the time, was banking (and banked big time) on the ever-growing MTV generation with its newly shortened attention span.

Besides, there is only about 4 minutes of story in Flashdance, the perfect length for a music video.

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