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Strictly Ballroom

Year: 1992
Production Co: Bazmark Films
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Baz Luhrmann/Andrew Bovell/Craig Pearce
Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Soniza Kruger, John Hannan, Barry Otto, Gia Carides

The current renaissance of the Australian film industry starts here. Prior to Baz Luhrmann's auspicious debut, Australian films were mostly slow moving, often surreal artistic pieces made to the sensibilities of government-funded filmmakers rather than audiences.

But like we'd never seen before, an Australian film appeared in the suburban multiplex aimed squarely at filmgoers and not the inner chin stroking cinerati of a few cultural critics.

When dancer Scott (Mercurio) insists on using his own moves in competition, he's drummed out of the industry, his vacuous partner leaving him and feeling the aloneness and bitterness of defeat for the first time.

It's ugly duckling Fran's (Morice) chance. With Scott finally friendless, she offers the object of her affection his only chance - dance with her, use their own steps, and blow the competition away on their own turf.

It's a dancing story and a love story, full of glitz and glamour but not above satirising itself - we see sleazy bimboy Ken Railings (Hannan) entertaining a female conquest in a spa before the camera pulls back to reveal they're enjoying their romantic interlude in a tacky pool shop.

None of the acting, drama or dialogue stands out, but it's the exuberance and zest Luhrmann brings to the screen that carried the movie all the way to Cannes and finally put Australia on the movie map.

I've always felt sorry for Mercurio. He could have been where Sam Worthington and Hugh Jackman are as I write this, but his next few projects bombed and he seemed to squander the wave of popularity he rode for a little while.

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