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Flashdance – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Paramount Presents debuted last month with three classic titles and the results for this reviewer were a bit mixed, with one title I recommended the old version over it. Nonetheless, the biggest gripe is the removal of available bonus features from these new “definitive editions”. The line continues in May with releases of 1983’s Flashdance and 1990’s Days of Thunder. We’ll be covering Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance, which is one of the most culturally significant female-led films of the entire 1980’s decade. Already having a pretty well received edition come out seven years ago, this new one will feature the nice Presents label packaging, a new 4K scan and a new interview with director Adrian Lyne. Heck, this is Lyne’s second title for the label (The first being last month’s Fatal Attraction). The Paramount Presents edition of Flashdance and Jennifer Beals’ greatness, will be landing on shelves (When stores open) and online stores May 19. Pre-order from the Amazon Associates’ link below to secure yourself a copy.

Film

Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a beautiful young woman who works a day job in a steel mill and dances in a bar at night. When Alex discovers that her handsome boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), is both interested in her and supportive of her performing career, she renews her efforts to get accepted into a prestigious dance conservatory. Although Alex is frightened of failure, she is cheered on by Nick, as well as by her mentor, former ballet performer Hanna Long (Lilia Skala).

Flashdance shares a lot in common with 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. Its in many ways a gender reversed spiritual sequel set in a different era. Unfortunately, one of the things it shares is the same bit of pop culture awareness for the film that leaves everyone thinking they know everything about it (Without having seen it) and in truth they’ve barely scratched the surface. Whereas with Fever, people think its all John Travolta strutting on the street to the Bee Gees and swinging his disco fist into the air with fancy movies at the club. Flashdance has people recalling “What A Feeling” and “Maniac” with images of Jennifer Beals dousing in water on a chair or working her ass off in leg warmers. All of this (for both films) literally happens in the first 15 minutes. There is far more character (and movie) to them.

There’s a pretty solid story here in Flashdance, one of a woman who truly busts her ass for her art and livelihood but with the hesitation of moving forward. A fear of her friends and family around her falling apart without her contribution. One who’s done so much herself, its hard for her to accept a helping hand or be appreciative of it. These ideas and relationships are all here, but there might be one too many, as it doesn’t quite hit dramatic impact enough as they each need a tad more focus. But for the sake of the picture it does absolutely what it needs to do, just not as deep as it could. If anything, the romantic subplot could be the one dropped as it finds itself a bit tired and doesn’t feel like the right voice to get Alex to push on and make the big step. Its not awful, but its a step in a generic direction when this film has more interesting and unique territory to focus on.

This was Adrian Lyne’s second film and boy does he flash some visual flair and talent. He admittedly said he wasn’t much interested in the in betweens, but moreso the dance numbers. And those are certainly the prime highlight of the film. They are a wild, crazy and intoxicating visual jolt with some bold choreography and breathtaking athleticism. Yeah, Jennifer Beals clearly has a double with a wig on, but you’ll forget that once you see the moves performed. The film has a brilliant, lightning in a bottle harmony of bringing the dance, visuals and songs/score together in a film. It works and carries the film quite a bit and makes it something more than just any coming of age drama or even any given dance movie in the 1980s. This is the one that nailed it and this is the one the others wanted and were striving to be. Much of the iconography is the dance, the songs, the costumes and there’s a good, warranted reason for that.

37 years removed, its easy to take lightly what a phenomenon that Flashdance was. It was indeed a breakout for its star Jennifer Beals, who is still pretty terrific and like nothing else out there at the time here. Its odd that she’s only person in the cast that really went on to big success (Other than Robert Wuhl who is an extra in this). There was a disconnect here between critics/studio heads and audiences here as well. They had no idea what they had on their hands and the generation gap was clear in the box office returns. Flashdance made $94 million in just America in 1983. It send April through October in the Top 10. It sold a hell of a lot of soundtracks. Doesn’t sound like much? That would $250 million today. Sure, the main narrative is a little average with its heart in the right spot, but the details surrounding it, plus capturing the era with some honestly and charm take it up a notch.

Video

For more screencaps from this release, please CLICK HERE.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Flashdance releases on the Paramount Presents line with a brand new 4K restoration of the film. Personally, I am not familiar with the original Blu-ray release (Which seems to have received high marks on its 2013 transfer), but I’ll point again to my screenshots post that you can take and compare to very easily accessible shots from around the web. This transfer has some ugly moments in it that I think are actually unavoidable with the nature of how the film was lit and shot and with the advancement of a 4K transfer only becoming more apparent. Overall, the impressive moments far outweigh the not so impressive. Details can come on very strong depending on the lighting, but for the most part they are quite easy to see and the image is as crisp as the source is going to allow. It does appear that there are some moments that have had DNR applied and its not super problematic. The film is heavier in grain and when doing the 4K transfer, some moments may have been too overbearing for those working on it. If you’re looking for it, you’ll see it, but its not just a start to finish, its just in some minimal moments. Overall, with the increased detail (The water running in the dark at the work site looks beautiful), depth and color saturation, Flashdance‘s 2020 looks one of the best coming off the line and satisfactory.

Depth: The film features some pretty impressive depth of field in all kinds of ranges, given how gloomy and tough it presents itself. Many of the stage performances in the bar feature some good push back and distance both on the stage and apart from the crowd. Interiors, like Alex’s apartment or the interior of the dance academy halls really give a nice sense of scale. Movements are pretty smooth and cinematic and never are hampered by any digital jitter or blurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are easily the more problematic area of the transfer and likely are always going to be a struggle due to the nature of how the film is lit. I’m gonna cut it some slack, however. It does start rather ugly with some red seeping into the morning shadows in the open, that could be a issue with transparency or the credits. There are some times where it carries close to a natural tone and some where blacks appear much more gray. The darker something is the heavier the grain can carry. Details come through pretty strong and discernible on hair, objects and clothing, but some is just naturally hidden (as intended) in the shadows. There were a few moments of crush scene in a couple, minimal random spots. But, I will say I didn’t really notice any problems with the crush on the shadows of cheek bones as I did int he other releases with this one.

Color Reproduction:  This one really displays a nice contrast between the gloomy normal of Pittsburgh and the big dreams of the nighttime dance life. Stage lights, flashy garments and make-up colors really lift up off the screen. Car lights and the lighting of the tunnel look really lovely and saturate well into the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural with a little bit of coldness too them, but that could be just the feel the city of Pittsburgh gives the overall film. Tones are consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like stubble, bruising, dried dirt, make-up lines and lip texture are all pretty clear and visible in medium and close up shots. As mentioned above, there are moments with some DNR smoothness evident, but its not consistent, nor is it overbearing or super waxy looking when it does come in to play.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description, French 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Flashdance carries over its 5.1 mix featured on the previous edition (At least I assume, I’m doubting they remixed it for this release, there are no notes about that). And its all around a very solid mix, that right from the offset gives you the jolt to crank it up as Irene Cara’s “What A Feeling” opens. The mix has a good balance and rather forms some terrific clarity around the vocals and instrumental of the songs featured in the film.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: The subwoofer provides some solid work when it comes to thumping the base in the songs, natural slamming/crashing noises and bringing life to the engines and other construction sounds in the working scenes.

Surround Sound Presentation: This one hangs out a bit up front but isn’t shy to fill a room with the crowd adding to the rear speakers or songs sounding more concert like coming from behind as well. Motion is accurately depicted and scenes where the film calls upon the mix to form an engaging 360 degree experience, it comes through like in the car tunnel sequence for example.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty clear, carrying a bit of their analog sourcing to them and having a nice even spot in the overall mix and balance with effects and music.

Extras

Flashdance, in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film. Par for the course on these Presents releases, 3 featurettes and the Teaser Trailer totaling a little over a half hour of content have been excised from this release. Its confusing as all the featurettes from the previous Blu-ray appear to be a part of one documentary told in parts.

Filmmaker Focus: Director Adrian Lyne On Flashdance (HD, 5:51) – Another brief interview. While he took the film on “I guess I’ll just make the dances cool”, he’s touched that it has made such an impact on peoples’ lives. Lyne notes Bob Fosse was a fan of the film and he told him he ripped off his lighting to which Fosse said “I know”. Lyne also talks on some contributions he made to the song “Maniac” and the casting on Jennifer Beals.

The Look Of Flashdance (HD, 9:12) – Adrian Lyne, Jerry Bruckheimer, Lynda Obst (Producer), Michael Kaplan (Costume Designer), Bud Smith (editor), Kyle T. Heffner and Michael Nouri comment on Pittsburgh as the back drop of the story as well as the lighting and framing choices. Its unveiled that exteriors and construction sequences were shot in Pittsburgh, but the rest was done in Los Angeles. They also discuss the costuming and fashion in the film.

Releasing The Flashdance Phenomenon (HD, 8:52) – The same people in the last featurette talk about the lack of confidence in the film, Bud Smith’s edit helping to improve the film and the poor reviews. But, it was the kids it resonated. Bruckheimer talked how kids would go see the movie, go straight to the record store to buy the soundtrack and back to the theater to see it again. They all discuss the power the film’s message and dance had on the youth of the era.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:41) 

Summary

Flashdance is a flash in the pan, right moment at the right time. If you can either invest in Jennifer Beals’ Alex, familiarize with the times or just enjoy wild dance numbers and the music, you’re easily going to sail right through. Paramount Presents’ once again commits the crime of (randomly?) cherry picking extras from the previous release and opting for a rather generic interview (As I constantly theorize, is meant to play in front of a Fathom Events-type screening). Its new transfer ranges from very impressive to iffy in a few areas, but with the nature of how this film is lit and shot, I’m understanding. They carry over the previous audio track, so that’s a wash. Overall, this might be my personal favorite of the Paramount Presents releases thus far.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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