Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Heavenly Bodies (Lawrence Dane, 1984)

If you thought that childish deviants, pudgy-faced troubadours, clubs that centre around parachutes, and film's about non-consensual necrophilia were the only things the nation of Canada had to offer in terms of art and culture; think again. The formidable grandeur that is Heavenly Bodies (a.k.a. Himmelskörper) rips apart the stereotype of the passive hoser (an unshaven layabout whose main goal in life is to watch others ice skate while inebriated) and depicts Canadians as the feisty, leg warmer-wearing go-getters that they really are. Unfolding during the time when exercise wasn't viewed as a subversive act, the inspirational film is a montage-fueled dream machine that poses the question: How long does one have to stretch in order to attain spiritual maturity? The continent is fully immersed in the workout craze that swept the early part of the 1980s and this film perfectly captures the perky pizzazz of that particular era. A taut profusion of kicking legs, flailing arms, and an armada of sweat-drenched torsos struggling to maintain a cohesive sense of self, the bodies seen throughout this film speak volumes. Now, that's not to say that verbal dialogue is frowned upon. On the contrary, I noticed there were number of occasions where characters found the time to talk to one another. It's just that the wonderfully symmetrical citizens that populate this world do their best communicating while jumping in unison.

The definition of a spry film, Heavenly Bodies is basically about Samantha Blair (a gutsy single mother) and her two gal pals, KC (Patricia Idlette) and Patty (Pam Henry), and their dream of running their own fitness club. Of course to keeps things interesting, Samantha lands a job on a morning workout show (the kind you'd catch your Uncle Steve masturbating to most mornings circa 1983) and gets into a bit of tiff with a rival jumping jack pusher named Debbie (Laura Henry). (I could tell Debbie was gonna be trouble the moment she walked on screen.)

Anyway, plucky determination permeates the sweaty pores of Samantha, as she transverses the cramp-addled wasteland that is modern day aerobics. I mean, never has the slipping on of a pair of leg warmers seemed like such an act of defiance. The montage that shows them shedding their corporate duds (heeled shoes, taupe pantyhose, and banal blouses) for the tight-fitting smoothness of their exercise garb exemplified this defiance.

One of the sexiest people ever to pretend to hand out flyers outside the Uptown Theatre, a Toronto landmark demolished in 2003, Cynthia Dale plays Samantha with a street smart aplomb. Proving that action speaks louder than words, Cynthia dances like a crazed bunny on crystal meth.

Utilizing an over-sized vat of gumption and a cutting board littered with moxie, the ultra-fit vixen moves like a flung piece of crushed ice (her solo numbers were a cardiovascular sort of way), and the hypnotic manner in which she thrust her fat-free undercarriage brought a tear to my eye.

Particularly the scene where Miss Dale stares at her football playing boyfriend as Bonnie Pointer's "The Beast In Me" throbs on soundtrack (which also includes excellent songs by Sparks, The Tubes and Boys Brigade).

She's probably not proud of this film (I bet she's performing Shakespeare in Stratford , Ontario right this minute), but I hope Cynthia Dale understands that this flick about solving ones grievances through calisthenics has brought joy to literally hundreds of hardworking people.

video uploaded by popitko


  1. The soundtrack to this movie is killer. Listening to it on your walkman is like having aural leg warmers for your ears.

    Also, I like that they go see Flashdance on a date. It's the movie's way of giving credit where credit is due. Canadian exploitation tended to be more respectful and less crass in it's theft than their American counterparts.

  2. "Into the Flow" by Boys Brigade is probably my current fave from the film's killer soundtrack.

  3. "Oh, Canada! We stand on guard for thee!"

  4. The fact that this movie is still not available on DVD is criminal.

  5. Just saw this on TCM, watched it just from recognizing the pictures of it in here, immediately came here for something like "(the kind you'd catch your Uncle Steve masturbating to most mornings circa 1983)", and now leaving pleased (this is probably going to happen a few times). Hope all is well!