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Paramount Presents: Flashdance
When Flashdance opens, Alexandra 'Alex' Owens (Jennifer Beals) rides her bike through the mean streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on her way to her job at a steel mill where she works as a welder. After her shift, Alex heads over to Mawby's Bar to work at her second job as an exotic dancer. That night she performs for a patron, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), who is actually her supervisor. Nick likes what he sees but doesn't realize Alex is one of his employees until one of his friends points this out to him.
At work the next day, Nick makes a point of talking to Alex, curious about why she works both jobs. She tells him she needs to make a living and that's the end of it as Nick gets distracted by his duties. When Alex goes home that night we get a look at her living conditions. She lives by herself, with her pet dog, in an abandoned loft where she has all the space she needs to practice her dance moves. See, Alex might work dancing at a dive bar now, but she's young, ambitious and talented and hopes to one day make it to the dance academy and go on to bigger and better things. We see her apply but when she hears the other applicants being asked to list their past experience, she leaves, disheartened, without filling out the paperwork. As Alex's story progresses, Nick asks her out for dinner but she declines as he's her boss. We see Alex train with Hanna Long (Lilia Skala), a former professional dancer who takes her under her wing, and bond with her friends and co-workers Jeanie Szabo (Sunny Johnson), who has ambitions of becoming a professional ice skater, and her boyfriend Richie (Kyle T. Heffner), an aspiring comedian.
When the three get into hot water after work one night, Nick shows up to stop the fight and eventually gets Alex to agree to go on a date with him. They fall fast in love but things get complicated when Nick's ex-wife, Katie Hurley (Belinda Bauer) enters the picture and even more complicated when Nick decides to use his connections on the city arts council to get Alex an audition at the academy.
Flashdance may look and sound every bit like the early eighties film that it is but it still works pretty well as a decent mix of drama, romance and… dance. Lots of dance. Dance breaks out all over the place in this film, sometimes in places that make sense and sometimes in places that don't' always make sense, but that aspect of the film is clearly a huge part of what makes the film so fondly remembered not just by fans of eighties nostalgia but by those who appreciate the art form. If the outfits and the music in the film are products of their time, clearly, the choreography holds up very well and remains impressive to watch. The film's iconic scenes are still instantly identifiable even outside of the context of the film and yeah, overall, this is pretty entertaining stuff.
Jennifer Beals is, obviously, a huge part of what makes the movie work. Alex is likeable, she's got drive and the skill to match, and we want her to be able to use her talents to make a better life for herself. We also understand her trepidation as an untrained dancer who works in a go-go bar going up against professionally trained competitors. Who wouldn't doubt themselves in that situation? Regardless, Beals makes this part work really well. She's entirely believable here and even in the cornier moments of the movie, and there are quite a few, she pulls it off. She has pretty solid chemistry with Michael Nouri, who also delivers pretty decent work here. Supporting efforts from Skala, Johnson and Heffner are also noteworthy. All of them handle the material quite well, crafting some interesting and memorable, often times sympathetic characters.
The movie also benefits from strong production values. The cinematography is great and the lighting in particular does an excellent job of conjuring up some impressive imagery. Add to that a soundtrack full of eighties hits and yeah, it might feel hokey and all, but Flashdance holds up.
Flashdance comes back to Blu-ray from Paramount on a 50GB disc and in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in 1.78.1 widescreen (the film was shown 1.85.1 in theaters but this is close enough that the compositions look just fine) taken from a new 4k remaster. Quality of the transfer is very strong. Colors are reproduced really nicely and we get strong, deep black levels. The disc is well-authored in that there are no compression issues nor are there any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail is very strong throughout and there's good depth and texture on display here as well. Some shots do appear to have been intentionally shot with a soft look in mind, and as such, detail in those scenes isn't as impressive, but that's how the film was meant to look and overall, Paramount has done a really nice job with the video presentation on this disc
The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio Track is quite good. The music is spread out very effectively here, and it sounds really good. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. There's interesting surround activity in the factory scenes as well, and the track proves quite immersive in that regard. Levels are balanced well and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH and French and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo dubbed track is also included.
The only new extra on the disc is Filmmaker Focus: Director Adrian Lyne Discusses Flashdance which is a six-minute interview in which Lyne talks about the story of the film, influences that went into getting it made, the look of the movie and its enduring popularity. The rest of the extras are carried over from previous releases, and include the nine-minute The Look Of Flashdance featurette (which gives us a quick look at the visuals) and the nine-minute Releasing The Flashdance Phenomenon (which covers the popularity of the picture. A trailer, menus and chapter selection are also provided.
While the extras on the disc are nothing to write home about, Paramount has at least done a nice job with the packaging here. It comes packaged with a slipcover that folds open on the front to create a neat poster-like image. It's a small thing but it's worth pointing out for collectors. The spine on the slipcover notes that this is #4 in the Paramount Presents line of Blu-ray releases, bringing out some of their more demanded catalogue titles on the Blu-ray format.
Flashdance is a consummate eighties movie in every possible way but the story underneath the fashions, the music and the iconic dance scenes is decent enough to work thanks to a few solid performances. A product of its time, yes indeed, but an enjoyable one. Paramount's Blu-ray release looks great and sounds very good. The extras are slim but the packaging is nice. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.