Friday, August 17, 2018

Dancing to Save the World

Oh, to be young and right about everything. 1987's Dirty Dancing is supposedly based heavily on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's childhood, though one suspects some facts were altered in the interest of fantasy, to say nothing of distinctly 80s pop music turning up in 1963. But as a sweet indulgence it certainly works due in large part to the chemistry of its stars and its pretty location.

Which apparently got really cold as the shooting schedule was unexpectedly extended into autumn, adding another level of vicarious pleasure to us living through the global heatwave.

Francis, better known as Baby (Jennifer Grey), shows up at this beautiful mountain resort hotel, immediately distinguished from the rest of her family by several oddly placed, glamorous close-up shots.

She plans to join the Peace Corps and believes in fighting for what's right, she's beautiful, and the kind of improbably perfect character that gets treated like an outcast. She's terribly awkward carrying a watermelon--"I carried a watermelon," she explains to later die of embarrassment reflecting on this supposedly dopey statement--but she's quickly singled out by the hottest guy in the room, the working class bad boy Johnny (Patrick Swayze), and before long they're bumping pelvises.

It sure is hot. And Swayze is so perfectly vulnerable and strong. It's not many men who could sell the line when he tells Baby he wasn't using the women he's slept with at the hotel--"They used me." Heaven forbid he enjoyed casual sex at some point.

The movie's known for its controversial abortion subplot, which stopped being controversial and now looks like it's probably going to be controversial again pretty soon once Trump gets his Supreme Court. Though would I be too much of an imp if I pointed out down-on-his-luck, working class white boy Johnny might have been a Trump voter to-day? Yeah, I don't want to think about it either, but the guy's not had the benefit of a good education. He's all raw animal magnetism but very scrupulously well behaved, he can't even stick up for himself when Baby's always-wrong father (Jerry Orbach) assumes he's the one who got Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) pregnant, which does somehow code as noble even though it means letting the old man support the jerk who really did use and throw away Penny.

It's too damned easy to poke holes in this movie and I don't want to because I really do love watching Baby and Johnny together. I love the montages of them practising in the beautiful mountain woodland exteriors and the dreamily lit interiors. These have are nicely shot and edited sequences of close-ups that emphasise the contrasts of in their physiques. Look how cute her feet are next to his.

And then there's the bit, supposedly outtakes that ended up being used for the film, where Baby can't help giggling during his choreographed caress of her torso, his big, perfectly muscled arm gently trailing his fingers down her compact little chest and tummy. With that kind of heat, the laugh comes off as very natural for a young woman who can't handle just how heavy the moment is, and then it's perfectly completed when she finally settles down and is able to meet his gaze with the same appetite. "Hungry Eyes", as it were.

Supposedly Swayze and Grey didn't get along, maybe that's an integral component of that magnificent smoulder. I'm sure glad it was caught on film.

Twitter Sonnet #1145

Hotels arranged in backwards time arrive.
A song selected late appeared before.
A loop was like a solid dance contrived.
A circle could the clock to-night restore.
A morning dance became an evening search.
Between the slices cut the sky resides.
A rusty rain has painted down the birch.
For ev'ryone the magnet now decides.
The years it took to travel numbered ten.
Beneath a faded coat a shirt's the sea.
Along the chain a watch determined when.
Diverse machines withhold the jacket's key.
An '87 morning mist advanced.
A neon blush arose as people danced.

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