May 14, 2009

Saturday Night Fever Blu-ray.jpgI go out dancing all the time. This is something that came to me later in life, though I spent a lot of time out of college dancing. But even more so now. You get the jogger’s high if you do it long enough. And it’s like going to the gym, except with more chances for flirting. And most women will tell you, a man who can dance is probably not a bad lay. That’s not why I dance, though.

I don’t relate to Tony Manero (John Travolta), but I get it. For him, there’s his life, and then there’s the 2001 dance club. Sure it may cost $20 to get in, but when he’s there he’s the king. One patron wants to bead his forehead to remove the sweat. His friends joke that getting a girl to do something like that is harder than getting a blowjob. Tony meets Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) and knows that she’s on to something. When they dance he can tell she’s good. They hang out, and she can’t shut up about being classy, he wants to be with her, but she also knows that he might be a step back in getting on in the world. He’s a man frustrated with how his life is.

The film is clearly modeled on Rebel without a Cause, but it gets working class frustration in a way that Rebel does not. In that way the film achieves its greatness. It’s a very specific feeling, and it’s odd that a Hollywood film can capture it. Yes, the portrayal of the Italian-American community is sketched quickly, but you buy it. But most of all you feel for Tony. And it’s this role that made Travolta a star. You can see it in his preening, but also his naked moments. He expresses much with his face, and it’s a great vessel. As bad as he’s gotten, and he’s made some shit films for sure, when you watch something like this or Pulp Fiction or Blow Out, that star charisma is all over the screen.

The film comes widescreen (1.78:1) and in Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1. This is- of course – best in the club scenes. The film also comes with an audio commentary by director John Badham, an underrated journeyman who once had a pretty good beat on filmmaking, who seemed to get lost in the system. There’s also a feature length trivia track. There’s also a five part making of called “Catching the Fever” (52 min.) that is glowing, but not insufferable, and has some good bits on the costuming, though a lot of time dedicated to the film’s impact. They go back to locations for a quick tour called “Back to Bay Ridge” (9 min.), and a chance to dance like John Travolta with a lesson from John Cassese (9 min.). This dude frightens me. There’s also a “Fever challenge” (4 min.) which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and three deleted scenes (4 min.) most likely taken from a TV cut of the film.

3 Days of the Condor Blu-ray.jpg

3 Days of the Condor is another one of those great 70’s movies that almost seems smaller because the decade around it. There’s nothing wrong with the film, and you can see how it influenced the Bourne films (which in turn influenced the Bond films). It just can’t stack up to – say – Taxi Driver or even Klute. What it is, is just solid and inspired Hollywood filmmaking.

Robert Redford stars as Joe Turner, who goes out to lunch at the exact same time government hit-men have come in to clean the place out. He has a code name “The Condor” and goes into hiding after having an encounter with a supervisor who tries to kill him. He hides out with Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), and the two fall into a strange seduction. There’s enough there that it could for something real, but also it could be Stockholm. He is pursued by G. Joubert (Max Von Sydow), and Joubert recognizes the truth of Turner. He’s hard to predict because he’s an amateur. And though he makes mistakes, he also makes some unintentionally smart decisions.

This is the sort of great paranoid Hollywood craftsmanship that it’s hard not to bemoan its passing. Directed by the late Sydney Pollack, the work here is great. You get sucked in, and it ends really well. It builds to its conclusion with a great scene where two characters probe each other out of curiosity. Dangerous men having a polite conversation. Great use of locations, a great cast (wth Cliff Robertson and John Houseman supporting), and a great building to the ending..

Paramount presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD. There is only a trailer.

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