Saturday Night Fever
Where do you go when the record is over...?
Tony Manero (Travolta) is trapped in his dead-end day job at a paint store and stifled by his punitive Catholic family. His only release comes on Saturday nights when he struts down to the local disco where he is worshipped as king of the dance floor. One night he meets Stephanie, an alluring young dancer whose talents are leagues above his own, and the duo begin training for the club’s dance competition. With tensions increasing at home and between his friends, the competition becomes everything for Tony, offering the promise of a new life in Manhattan. Can he dance his way to freedom?
Defining the decade of disco, Saturday Night Fever exudes cool and attitude. On the surface it may appear to be a mere dance flick, but it actually represents one of the first films in cinema to explore teenage angst since Rebel Without a Cause in 1955, not shying away from showcasing some of the bleaker aspects of youthful exploits. Beyond the glitz and glamour of the disco mirror ball, Brooklyn’s underbelly rumbles with unrest and rebellion, lending the film a sense of depth for which it is often uncredited.
Analysis aside, Saturday Night Fever is ultimately an enjoyable love letter to an energetic dance movement that gripped a generation, written when flares were still in fashion. Accompanied throughout by The Bee Gees’ seminal seventies soundtrack, the film features many captivating dance sequences which helped to establish John Travolta as a rising star in cinema, consolidated a year later by his role in Grease.
Whether you’re a closet disco fan, a diehard dancer, or a seventies sceptic, this film goes recommended to anyone with a penchant for fun. With catchy beats and funky moves throughout, you’ll find it is impossible to be immune from catching the fever yourself.
Start at the beginning: that shot of Tony's feet, walking down a Brooklyn street in a supremely confident, super-cool strut while the Bee Gees squeak away over a can't-help-but-dance disco backing. The opening might well sum up the movie for most people. Most people who haven't seen the whole film, that is.
Saturday Night Fever is always grossly mis-remembered, locked into soft-focus, rose-tinted parentally sanctioned nostalgia. Anyone who claims to have been there (done that, thought the t-shirt wasn't tacky enough) probably wasn't, and would like to deny that there was anything half as dangerous as a (disco) fever. Disco combined everything non-white, and therefore everything most threatening - it developed out of the ends of Motown and soul, becoming popular in New York's gay clubs before crossing over to the mainstream. Thus, Saturday Night Fever is not a nice, sweet movie about a guy who likes to dance and who falls in love with a nice girl because she's a good dancer too. Instead, it's an edgy, black movie about a vain, shallow guy whose life is going nowhere who realises that there might be more to relationships than ten minutes in the back seat of a car. There is swearing, there is violence, and there are drugs.
The movie is essentially about dead ends, and whether or not you can turn around and escape them. John Travolta's Tony Manero is the picture of a loser, still living with his parents and working in a paint store. The end of the film offers some hope for him - maybe - but for some of the other characters, things don't work out so well. Take, for example, the surprisingly poignant subplot about Bobby C and his pregnant girlfriend. Most of the time he's on screen he's asking for advice, but nobody is listening. Or Tony's traditionally dysfunctional family, with his unemployed father and permanently harassed mother.
Despite the downbeat setting, there's a lot of humour too. Best is Tony's vanity, his hurt, indignant yelp of "He hit my hair! Ya know, I spend a lot of time on my hair, and then ya hit it..." And, of course, there are the dance sequences - fantastical, almost dreamlike, visions of Tony, less cheesy and far cooler than you might imagine. In a way, they stand for the whole film: a moment of escapism from the real world.
The end of term is upon us again and to celebrate lack of work and over-indulgence of alcohol for another 10 weeks, we have a classic dance movie.
Tony is an uneducated Brooklyn teenager. The highlight of his week is going to the local disco, where he is the king of the dancefloor. Tony meets Stephanie at the disco and they agree to dance together in a competition. Stephanie resists Tony's attempts to romance her, as she aspires to greater things; she is moving across the river to Manhattan. Gradually, Tony also becomes disillusioned with the life he is leading and he and Stephanie decide to help one another to start afresh.
Come and see this film to start your evening's entertainment and we are sure you will be strutting like John Travolta all night!
Screenings of this film:
|1995/1996 Spring Term – (35mm)|
|1999/2000 Summer Term – (35mm)|
|2003/2004 Autumn Term – (35mm)|
|2010/2011 Spring Term – (35mm)|