Long before Moulin Rouge! or The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann made his directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom. It’s a weird and wonderful film packed with theatricality based on Luhrmann’s own experiences with ballroom dancing as a kid growing up in rural Australia (yes, really).
Luhrmann has said he wanted to have “the silly, heightened style of any old Hollywood movie–but deal with serious issues.” The silly and serious clash in Strictly Ballroom when outsider Scott shakes up the established ballroom dancing subculture with new moves (gasp!) and improvised dance routines (horrors!)
The ballroom veterans are deadly serious about their dance moves, and Luhrmann highlights the absurdity with cartoonish close-ups, garish costumes, and cheesy cover songs (like Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time).
But the film’s message is earnest: “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived,” and it’s impossible not to cheer for the underdog as he takes on the establishment.
Everything about Strictly Ballroom is excessive and exaggerated. It’s glitzy and gaudy and completely over-the-top. It’s a ton of fun, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it.
American fans have embraced Strictly Ballroom as a cult classic. (It’s just a classic in Australia.) And even if you’ve never seen it, perhaps you’ve seen Dancing with the Stars? The dance competition show is based on Luhrmann’s film.
Seen it? How many times? (I think I’m at a solid 15–it was my favorite cult film in high school!)
***** ***** *****
This is the sixteenth post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.