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June 23, 2011

StreetDance 3D

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Max Giwa & Dania Pasquini
Happy Home Entertainment Region 3 DVD

Watching a DVD with the 3D glasses didn't quite work for me. These were the old fashion kind with a green lens and a red lens, and made for someone with a smaller head. There's also sitting in just the right place, and the fact that I need to wear glasses in order to watch any movie in focus. Still, for the price of seeing a 3D movie in a theater, I think I got a pretty good deal with a Thai two disc set and two sets of glasses, with the second disc being the 2D version of this British dance film. (And for those concerned about region coding, keep in mind that my Macbook is set for Region 1, and I had no problem creating the screencaps. The British R2 version is very reasonably priced, with both the 3D and "flat" version, and four sets of red/green glasses.)

I found out about StreetDance by accident. A website I look at had a link to a post by Jasper Sharp. If you never heard of the film, well it was a big international hit, except for the U.S., where it never got released. It should also be noted that with its May 2010 release, StreetDance was actually the first 3D dance movie, preceding Step Up 3D by about four months. Why didn't this film get a U.S. release? I have a couple theories. It's too bad this film wasn't given a chance here because it is a pretty good film.

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What I like about StreetDance was that it is actually about the joy of dancing. Yeah, there's a bit when the lead character, Carly, mentions attitude, but it's nothing like the kind of films where the dance competitions are ready to disintegrate into gang fights. What is also refreshing is an egalitarian spirit as expressed by Charlotte Rampling's character that refuses to make distinctions between the street dance and ballet. Admittedly, there's nothing original in the script, although there's a bit more wit than might be found in an obvious inspiration, Breakin'. Only a small part of the film plays out the snobs versus slobs rivalry, and the filmmakers even had the sense of humor to include a 3D food fight.

Where Step Up 3D bests StreetDance is in the one real street dance, a five minute single take by a couple to the old Jerome Kern song, "I Won't Dance". It was Sheila O'Malley who brought the film to my attention. That one dance scene works for me because you can actually watch the dance in full, with no cuts, no fragmented shots of bodies in motion. The dances in StreetDance are more more heavily edited than I would prefer, but in general, I did get a reasonably good sense of the choreography. There's even a nod to Busby Berkeley with some overhead shots in the final dance performance.

The basic story is about a street dance group needing a place to rehearse. Carly, working as a sandwich delivery girl, seeks assistance from Helena, who runs a ballet school. A dance space is needed for an upcoming national competition of street dance crews. Helena offers studio space in exchange for Carly taking on a group of her students whom she feels have the mechanics, but not the passion, for dance. Unless you're a total stranger to Shabba-Doo and The Boogaloo Shrimp, or even Fred and Ginger, you don't need me to tell you how this story is going to end.

Part of the film has Carly going to her first ballet, Romeo and Juliet, with music by Prokofiev. And there is the love story angle with Carly and Tom, whom she first calls "ballet boy". One might compare what happened to StreetDance to another ballet scored by Prokofiev, Cinderella. The success of the film might be likened to a fairy tale. With a budget that was about a tenth of that for Step Up 3D, the film was a surprise hit, in addition to being the first British 3D movie. Co-director Dania Pasquini stated in an interview, " . . . our aim was to uncover the spirit of dance, poke fun at the preconceptions and celebrate dance - all disciplines of dance!" I think she and Max Giwa mostly succeeded. Mainly though, what StreetDance illustrates is that street dancing doesn't have to necessarily be an expression of anger or frustration, nor do the films need to conflate those feelings with 'attitude". Whatever one might say about how the dances are filmed, or how the dancers are portrayed, there is a real sense of generosity and affection towards all the characters that seems almost forgotten by Hollywood.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 23, 2011 08:11 AM