Given MTV's tarnished reputation, it's easy to forget that the channel was once hailed as an important showcase for cutting-edge editing and visual design. Flashdance's 1983 release seems to mark the exact moment when "MTV-style editing" stopped being used primarily as a compliment, and instead became a pejorative phrase. When Flashdance director Adrian Lyne embraced the MTV aesthetic, the result wasn't a bold evolutionary leap forward, but a big step in the wrong direction. The film offers the worst of both worlds by combining the crowd-pleasing, mothballed working-class-underdog-pursues-dream formula of yesteryear with MTV's kinetic emptiness, in the process creating the ultimate in '80s kitsch. When Jennifer Lopez transformed her "I'm Glad" video into an homage to the movie's famed climax, the music-video/film fusion came full circle: a film sequence shot and edited exactly like a music video became a music video shot and edited exactly like a "classic" film sequence.
A shockingly successful fusion of faux-grit and genuine glitz, Flashdance cast dance-challenged newcomer Jennifer Beals as an 18-year-old welder by day/dancer by night who dreams of attending a prestigious dance academy. Then again, if Beals didn't live in a converted warehouse roughly the size of Orson Welles' mansion in Citizen Kane, she probably wouldn't need two jobs or a wealthy boss/boyfriend (Michael Nouri) who plays fairy godfather.
History has rendered Flashdance's lead character and plot iconic, but this marks another instance where "iconic" doubles as a euphemism for fuzzily conceived and underrealized. The non-dance sequences are roughly as important to the film's overall success as the plots of porn films, and not much better written. Lyne succeeds in creating an entirely new kind of musical, one in which a lead actress who couldn't dance was less important than the enterprising editors who stitched shots of her body doubles into a cohesive whole. In one of the featurettes, Lyne claims that a good movie can thrive without production values, but a great-looking nothing will never work. It's a curious, deeply ironic statement when applied to one of the most successful great-looking nothings in film history.
Key features: The usual fawning featurettes and a six-song EP containing "Maniac," "Flashdance (What A Feeling)," and four other soundtrack favorites.