This post is for the Trashy Movie Blog-a-Thon hosted @ The Bleeding Tree as well as a new entry in my personal canon: "100 movies i think about when i think about the movies"
A stage version of this 1980 classic is about to open on Broadway but before it does --surely ushering in yet another jokey acknowledgement of Xanadu's kitsch value-- I think it's time to rediscover the film in all of its enduring time-capsule glory. For Xanadu, you see, is not the tongue-in-cheek comedy that it will be reworked as. It's a completely sincere endeavor and, I'd argue, endearingly so. It's not one of those films that are so intentionally bad that it's subversively excellent (see: Showgirls). No, Xanadu is the real deal: a straight-faced musical. It just had the terrible misfortune to celebrate a number of things that would be out of style almost immediately thereafter: roller rinks, disco, legwarmers, greek mythology, album covers … and Olivia Newton-John.
It's easy to dismiss Xanadu for the very things it shamelessly loves but it's a shame to dismiss the shameless if they're also compulsively watchable. What other movie gives you a glimpse into the lost profession of album cover illustration? None that I know of. In what other movie will you see Greek muses come to life from a painting on a brick wall? Even Clash of the Titans didn't have that. What other movie has the wacky chutzpah to give you a pop star as A list as Olivia Newton-John (she is strangely disregarded now but don't be fooled: she was an enormous star with dozens of hits) and put her on rollerskates and in only one baggy outfit for almost an entire film?
Xanadu, like many great musicals of yore, tells a rather silly story. The tale it spins is of a Greek muse with an Australian accent named Kira (Olivia) who inspires a young artist (Michael Beck, the whiniest male lead since Luke Skywalker complained about those power converters at the Toschi Station) to open a nightclub with an retired musician (Gene Kelly). This 1980 musical had the nerve to be Olivia Newton-John's follow up to the monster success of Grease and its subsequent box office failure insured that it wouldn't be spoken of nicely. And it is an easy target, don't get me wrong: what with the rollerskating, the new wave hairdos, and the visual tourettes (more on that in a minute)...
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