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Fame (1980)

2009-09-28 11:12

My friend Bianca, who was incredibly beautiful but way too unattainably intelligent to join in on Spin the Bottle with the other popular girls, was cool enough to invite me (not a popular girl) to her all-girls 13th birthday party.

But the biggest excitement was that she'd hired a video - Fame – that we all knew about but none of us had seen because it had bare breasts in it, resulting in a 2-16 age restriction. I watched it again on DVD last night – and it’s a classic.

For those who don't know: Fame is set in a New York arts school that specialises in training people in the arts, while also getting them through the general curriculum. In brilliantly directed opening scenes, the thousands of applicants from all walks of life are auditioned – think a chaotic mix of middle class kids doing ballet, ghetto kids rocking the booty, nerdy classical types sawing away at violins, and actors posing around. The school it was based on - the New York City High School for the Performing Arts - is real, and still exists.

The auditions go on for ages, like a dark-lit, sexy, and meaningful (but still very funny) version of Idols auditions, the scenes flowing into each other using audio to shift scenes without chopping or lagging. Every actor, and not just the main character, is working all the time in crowded scenes where one failure would mean re-shooting everything.

How do the future stars, the stars of our film, get selected? Why are they chosen? Well, you can't tell who'll make it, but with canny quirkiness, the selectors pick people who are destined to be somebody – irrespective of their obvious skills. So we wind up with a bunch of amazing characters for a movie about teenagers: fucked up, shy, spoiled, ghetto, homosexual, bitchy, deceptively fly - and we watch them survive four years of art school. Sounds easy? Well what it is, is very, very entertaining.

This film was released in 1980 but financed in the 70s – and some of that sexy party-and-drug-crazed 70s buzz still lingers. Take the crazy cafeteria dance scene, packed with hot teenagers doing splits in leotards, and inspired details like the two girls having an animated conversation in the middle of it all – which lets you know none of it is actually happening. This is still fantasy. You only passed the audition – now you have to show you have what it takes. And that's work. That's going to mean changing the way you cope, growing up, and learning to live life.

We see a snapshot of their lives, and get to experience ourselves through the characters. When a shy girl runs out of the cafeteria and meets another lost soul on the stairs... that's ME. I'm the girl who ran away. I'm also the guy who storms out of class and smashes up the library. I'm also the kid who sits, shocked, and just watches it all, keeping his own secrets safe.

After the video finished, we gathered in the overgrown garden near the swing, in the very bright sunlight, dazed and inspired. 

"Do you want to be famous?" somebody asked.
"Yes!" went the chorus of girl voices.
"I'm going to be a musician or a writer, or both" I said.
"I'm going to be an actress," Bianca Amato, the birthday girl, announced.

Bianca starred on local hit soapie Isidingo for a couple of years after drama school, and later moved to New York to star in theatre productions, also appearing in a few films, and landed a cameo role in Sex & the City.

Sadly, the rest of our Fame dreams, as they say, are history... for now. Because I don't know about you, but I still secretly wanna live... forever!

Fame Facts:

- The film’s working title was Hot Lunch in the USA, and the Greek title: Ston pyreto tis doxas, which Google translates as “Ston pyreto tis doxas”. #fail

- Fame spawned a television series of the same name and a musical that has played on London's West End since 1995.

- There’s also a 1936 British comedy called Fame, about an ass-kissing, department-store floorwalker whose life changes when he wins a movie screen-test in a competition.

- MGM/UA has since produced a remake of this film. It’s not bad, but not nearly as good.

- Fame was nominated for six Academy Awards (including one for Christopher Gore’s great script), but only won two, for the title theme song and for the musical score.

- Director Alan Parker went on to make The Wall (1982), Birdy (1984), Angel Heart (1987) and The Commitments (1991) as well as many other Hollywood hits with heart.

Movie moments to remember:

Doris: I HATE Ralph Garci! I must remember this feeling and use it in my acting!

Shorofsky: No! No! No! Hold the bow like this! Not like this! This isn't your dick you're holding! It's a violin bow! Hold it with respect, like...
Bruno Martelli: ...Your dick?

Miss Berg: [to Lisa] Less lip, Monroe, more sweat!
Dancer: [about Miss Berg] She's just a bitch.

Leroy Johnson: I's young, I's single, and I loves to mingle!

Coco Hernandez: [the girls are fighting over Leroy] You know what they say? The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.
Hilary van Doren: Yes, but who wants diabetes?

Doris Finsecker: Everybody falls in love with their analyst! They have a word for it, don't they?
Montgomery McNeil: Yeah. Homosexual.

Doris Finsecker: I'm about as flamboyant as a bagel.

Hilary van Doren: [about Leroy] Son derriere noir... c'est formidable!
Lisa Monroe: Wow, I love your accent. What did you say?
Hilary van Doren: I dig his black ass.

Sex, drugs, racial tension, abortion, porn and gorgeous young people dancing to great music. What more could you want from a teen movie?

Gruntfuttock of Africa 2009/09/26 7:56 PM
What more could we want?? Just a silly suggestion but has anyone thought of "nudity" in the sex and pornography scenes?
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