Inspiration and motivation can be a precious substance in the art world, especially with commercial pressure stopping creatives from fully exploring the ideas they want. It has paradoxically been a point of inspiration itself. With some creating art about the pressures of not creating art. In 1980, a film explored the notion of creativity, success and inspiration, and Created something magical, in the mystical musical of Xanadu.
Sonny Malone is a talented artist, though he is stuck in an uncaring corporate world, however, his luck seems to change as a chance meeting with a mysterious blonde woman who keeps appearing in his life has given him motivation, or at least a purpose of tracking her down. In his quest, he also meets former musician Danny who is looking to get back into the scene with his nightclub. As Sonny starts to realise these chance meetings may be more than just heavenly inspiration, and fate may have a lot more in store for the three of them.
Despite being a charming narrative to hook the songs through, Xanadu’s strength is more in the ways that it tells its story than its synopsis would suggest. Eager to demonstrate the new technologies that the decade had in store, Xanadu lavishly parades the effects. Seamless rotoscoping is prevalent and Xanadu often indulges in snazzy wipes that despite being commonplace now, feel cutting edge. These inclusions help the films more fantastical elements pop, even leading to a fully animated sequence. The film is also a champion of the 1930s art deco movement, a little while before Michael Mann revitalised it with his hit T.V. series Miami Vice. When combined, these all help in giving Xanadu a timeless quality despite the iconic decade it was made in.
A musical is only as good as its accompanying music, and it is here that Xanadu shines. Its score boasts a magnificent collection from Olivia Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, and Cliff Richard. Olivia Newton-John’s Magic steals the show and is the perfect summation of what the film represents with its brand of pop-rock mastery accented with a mysterious allure. The film also does not waste the talents of Gene Kelly with a delightful tap-dancing routine, a homage to Kelly’s talents just 16 years before his passing.
Xanadu is a celebratory look at creativity from its past and its future, offering a unique blend of styles and segments in its festival of expression. It is a treat for the senses with dazzling neon colours, stylish art deco touches, and an infectious soundtrack all packaged in an enthralling package. It has a lot to offer, whether you like disco songs, romantic moments, rock and roll, or any combination of the above. Whatever you want to call its combination, it is hard to disagree that Xanadu is certainly magic.
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