Thursday, February 4, 2010

The King of Friday Night

(Andrew Gosling, 1985)
Not just shot on video - the majority of the movie takes place in glittering, cheese-saturated chroma key, and with its mid-80s take on early-60s youth culture, it's like a great acid trip at your local Wimpy's. The clash of hyper-stylized pastel elements is so gaudy and incessant that it nearly overwhelms the stagebound rock-and-roll fantasy of the script - but not quite. John Gray's plainspoken dialogue is generously laced with affection and lived detail, and it makes a point of being witty as it posits the music as a harmless ego-projection and social unifier. But the nostalgic frame of reference comes with its own built-in critique. By setting the action in an uncomplicated and homogeneous 1961, Gray duplicitously ignores a quarter-century of challenges to his simplistic thesis, and while his celebration of "boring" people is totally valid in itself, the situation of redemption in the distant past is the usual bourgeois snow job. Ideology aside, the climax is corny and pat in the great musical theatre tradition, and the sharp lyrical moments are never matched by the too-clean, too-emotive score. Though the performers are fairly appealing and individuated, only Eric Peterson's holy greaser ghost manages to address the camera with the necessary cinematic finesse.

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