Strictly Ballroom
1993
Dumped by his partner just before a major dance competition, gifted hoofer Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is forced to take a graceless neophyte (Tara Morice) as his new partner. But much to everyone's surprise, Scott soon turns his unpromising protégé into a topnotch dancer. Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides and Barry Otto also star in this quirky, engaging tale from Aussie director Baz Luhrmann.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

My memories of seeing this in high school were vague, so I had to rent it again as an adult and form a more dependable opinion, and besides, it allows me to prolong the tradition of renting debut features of directors whose later work I admire. Reviews at the time questioned the wisdom of Luhrmann's fish-eye lens and bizarre camera angles, but it's funny how a decade and two completely apeshit-crazy follow-ups can make a film seem down-to-earth.

It's little surprise that what is best in the film is the captivating dance performances, because the movie can hardly be bothered to tell much of a story around them. The movie began life years earlier as an improvised stage play, and grew through so many different incarnations that the movie is overstuffed with competiting plotlines; in a rush to cover everything before the audience gets restless for another dance number, many subplots fall by the wayside. The one that I found most interesting, the inevitable but promising love story between the leads, was shamelessly glossed over as the hero went from admitting his love for his partner to ditching her without a word, but apparently since the romance began with only a few meaningful glances, it was only appropriate to resolve it that way as well. Like the two leads getting lost in a sea of supporting characters in the final shot, the film loses its way en route to the finish, but it certainly contains some remarkable dancing along the way. It's worth a rental even for those turned off by Luhrmann's excesses in his later films.

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