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Saturday Night Fever

Year: 1977
Director: John Badham
Cast: John Travolta
Seeing movies that are so well known after everyone else referencing them and talking about them for so long is always an interesting experience.

From the opening shots of Tony Manero walking down the Brooklyn street with the paint can to Stayin' Alive, you know you're in for a kitschy, heavy dated treat, a movie more to be ridiculed over pizza and beer than seriously watched.

If you do watch it seriously though, it's a loose remake of American Graffiti as it depicts a young man from a strong American subculture struggling with the onset of maturity and the world at large while he navigates the foibles of his friends, family and the stereotypical Noo Yawk Catholic Italian world he inhabits.

The lessons Tony learns along the way aren't always clear or profound, but they represent a growth in his character that admittedly could have been done better.

The king of local disco who lives for Saturday night, Tony rules his kingdom on the wonderfully 70's lit-up dance floor of his local Brooklyn discotheque.

When he spots Stephanie - who he's never seen before (somewhere between Manhattan sophisticate and street ho) - he gravitates to her straight away, attempting to woo her by asking her to dance in the disco competition with him but displaying his ignorance and immaturity every step of the way.

After coming to terms with the truth of the world around him (through his identifying the innate racism of his community, as an example), he expunges almost everything he's known about himself and seemingly grows up in a single night riding the subways after the (possibly) accidental death of a friend.

It all sounds more dramatic and decisive than it is - the sloshy script and plot don't do the film any favours.

But after 25 years, the story is almost inconsequential. This is a journey into the embodiment of the first music you heard if you spent the first decade of your life in the 1970's.

All the Bee Gee's smashes are here, along with Disco Inferno and that disco reworking of the Beethoven symphony, and they're all delightful to see in their natural habitat instead of on another neon-coated Best Of the 70's compilation that only wants to poke fun.

Travolta is all swagger and personality, fitting the role like a glove. With the natural dancer's body he'd well and truly lost even by the time of Pulp Fiction (let alone today) and the moves that made him famous, he's a stronger character than he portrayed in Grease, which was a bigger movie for him. Watching his number around the lit-up floor, you remember that it's his dancing talent that made him a star.

The film was based on a non fiction article by credited screenwriter Nik Cohn about the disco movement in Brooklyn of the time, who later said he'd made the whole thing up.

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