Strictly Ballroom

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Australia| 1992| Colour| Musical| 94 min

Before William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Australian director Baz Luhrman displayed his skill for visual inventiveness and a taste for the unconventional with Strictly Ballroom, his feature film debut.
Set in Waratow, South Australia, the film is a variation on an old genre – the competition film. Part Saturday Night Fever, part Spinal Tap ‘mocumentary’, the story follows the build-up to the Pan Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Dancing Championships (the title greatly overstates the event) and the preparations of one dancer in particular, Scott Hastings. Forgetting momentarily that the rules state ‘strictly ballroom dancing’, Scott finds himself abandoned by his partner after a brief and damaging outburst of improvisation. A pariah of the dancing community he is forced to partner frumpy Fran, who, convinced of his talent, becomes the prime agent of his comeback. The story is a familiar one – ‘if at first you don’t succeed . . .’, but Lurmann’s treatment of the material is so fresh, the characters and setting so original, that the film takes on the quality of a fable, liberated from its insular environment and achieving cult classic status as a consequence.

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