Friday, August 22, 2008

Xanadu (Robert Greenwald, 1980)

I could sense a white-hot jealously emanating from my fellow pedestrians as I walked past them on the street the other day. I thought at first that it might be my hair, which has always been underrated (the slight hint of seborrheic dermatitis gives it an unpretentious sheen). Then I figured it might have something to do with the good-natured bumpiness of my trouser bulge. But then it dawned on me (it took five days for this dawning to materialize), they weren't jealous of me in a superficial context. Nope. What they were jealous of was the fact that I had just watched Xanadu, the eye-catching tribute to willowy muses and the whooshing sound they make when travelling between celestial dimensions. You see, there must have been a minute trace of the film still in my bloodstream after I watched it. Now, I know it sounds like I'm making all this up, but I read somewhere that Xanadu, the fantasy musical directed by political activist Robert Greenwald about a place where dreams come true, can have a profound effect on the bodies' central nervous system after it has been viewed from start to finish. Apparently, there's something about the undefiled gaudiness of the film's visual spectrum that causes a purplish beam of light to cascade from your eyeballs. A beam which proceeds to circumnavigate the entirety of your organic structure until you're nothing but a shimmering blob of pure, unadulterated goodness. Hence, the green-eyed ogling I received from the nosy throng of passersby.

A ridiculously hot Olivia Newton-John stars as Kira, the pluckiest spitfire in the Nine Muses, a well-groomed group of gals who are sent from some magical place to inspire and foster artists across the globe.

The impish Kira is sent specifically to nurture the artistic drive of a painter named Sonny Malone - an extremely charismatic Michael Beck (Swan from The Warriors).

The Nine Muses are introduced in a stunning sequence that features them frozen in a giant mural. Coming to life one at a time, they begin to frolic about in an intoxicating mishmash of Hellenic robes, flailing limbs and freshly shampooed hair.

Once the frolicking has subsided, Kira starts to stalk the long-haired artiste, inspiring him with come-hither glances and inaudible cooing noises. Which somehow sets the stage for the opening of a lavish nightclub.

The always amazing Olivia gives a performance so potent, so devastating, that she literally melts the audience through the sheer power of her unclothed shoulders. And the sight of ONJ in a pair of knee-high roller skates and one of those aforementioned robes is gorgeousness in its cleanest form. She is bliss on wheels, gliding through the film's whimsical atmosphere like a wistful waterfall drenched in a nonpoisonous brand of watermelon-scented turpentine. Uh, to put it in simpler terms, Olivia's performance is like having the hole where the corn goes, gently wiped with an unsullied wet-nap.

A fancy-footed Gene Kelly dominates the screen during one of my favourite sequences: a shopping montage that features The Electric Light Orchestra's "All Around the World" blaring on the soundtrack. A sequence that includes spider-web hosiery, pelvic thrusts, a leggy blonde straddling a golden pole, new wave clerks in Liquid Sky-friendly makeup, and costume changes galore.

If you were to take a photograph of the inside of my head at any given moment, it would look exactly like the grand finale of Xanadu; a garish orgy of colour and movement set to the string-enhanced rock of ELO. This fifteen minute explosion of dissonance and luminosity is the apex of cinema. In fact, anyone who tries to top this spectacle is a fool. Even the finale's intro, with its industrial drum sounds and pulsating electro-grooves, gives me chills every time. The anticipation over Olivia's appearance is palpable. Thanks to some precise hand clapping, the yelling of "Ho!" and the sporadic screaming of the film's title.

Everyone from the pop-locking quintet in the suspenders and their aggressively attractive cohorts, to the velvety armada of roller skating boys and girls are at the height of their craft as they encircle the insanely beautiful Olivia Newton-John, who is electrifying in a series of song and dance numbers that not only transcend genre, but time and space itself.

And no matter what your sexual orientation, the tiger print number she wears during "Fool" will definitely compromise the structural integrity of your genitals.

Every time I watch the film I get a warm, gooey feeling in my stomach. A feeling that has lead me to believe that Xanadu is love personified -- the essence of love in film form.

video uploaded by (rormeno)²


  1. What made Gene Kelly decide to be a part of this? Surely he was satisfied with those That's Entertainment films as a final bow to Hollywood?

  2. I love Xanadu. The year it came out I was nine years old and that's all I talked about at the dinner table for a year. I know it is "popular" and "hip" to admit this now but I adored this film when not too many others would/ could admit to it. Watching it is almost as good as a cup of good coffee - a jolt to the system! Overall, great review.

  3. I tried to watch this movie for the first time when it was on "TCM Underground" a while back... I REALLY tried. But after watching about 45 minutes of it, I came to the conclusion that the song "Xanadu" by Rush was more entertaining and closer to the poem "Kubla Khan" by Coleridge than this film.

    Don't get me wrong: Olivia Newton John is a powerful vocalist in her own right, and she wasn't hard to look at either. But after seeing her performance in "Grease", I just couldn't bring myself to finish watching "Xanadu". Her role in this movie seemed a little too much for me to handle.

  4. Xanadu is definitely for me, I can tell you. I saw it twice in '80 (aged 5 or so) and was tooooooootally entranced by it. As an adult, I recognize it as a terrible movie, but it's a great movie, because of all the stuff you said.

    And I will fight any man, woman, or laser-eyed space-bear who dares disagree.

  5. Thank you for commenting on my blog entry pertaining to the film Xanadu.

  6. I like how you effectively made yourself a non-threat to the Dr. who wants to fight laser-eyed space bears. Hopefully he doesn't want to fight invisible movie bloggers too. I've never seen this, but recall it being heartily panned by adults at the time. I for one am finally ready to watch it, for a revisit to my preteen ONJ crush and to see, "I-know-they're-on-my-ass,-but-now-they know-I-know-it" Swan in another role.

  7. I loved Xanadu SO MUCH that once I became 18 I legally changed my name to KIRA !!

  8. I loved your review! You nailed the way Xanadu effects you.... if you get IT.