40 years of Flashdance, Hollywood's first "MTV hit"

40 years of Flashdance, Hollywood’s first “MTV hit”

In 1983 Hollywood’s first “MTV hit” was released.

In September 1983, France discovered Flash dance, six months after its success in the United States. Jackpot: this musical comedy by Adrian Lyne brought more than 4 million curious people to France, making Jennifer Beals a star and “What a Feeling”an essential radio hit.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, focus on the making of the first Hollywood film to have been designed as a “hit” from MTV, the music channel launched two years earlier in the USA.

Flashdance can be (re)watched on Première Max

1983: Hollywood reshuffles the cards for good. A few months earlier, the electric-megal reverie of Francis Ford Coppola, Falling for something, was sadly impaled in the depths of the box office without noise or violins. The dreams of independence and the hippie ideology of the great US authors are ancient history, the kids are spending sleepless nights in front of the clip pool kindly provided by MTV and the yuppies in Armani suits are storming the studios in the background. by Pat Benatar. By appointing the young Dawn Steele, 39 years old at the time, as president, Paramount will become the first major to knowingly organize this major facelift.

His first major project: an FM bluette produced by two young, long-toothed wolves who have recently joined forces, Jerry Bruckheimer And Donald Simpson. The first, discreet and political, comes from the success ofAmerican Gigoloshot by a key figure in New Hollywood, Paul Schrader, but clearly prophesying the 80’s aesthetic (blue neon lights, synth pads by Moroder and Armani costumes). The second, plump and big-mouthed, has been vegetating in a closet in the studio for several months and has decided to move on to second year by developing his own projects. The two will agree to launch their joint career with Flash dance. From a script that they consider disastrous, and of which they ultimately only keep the concept (a little pro who likes to dance at night) and the title, Simpson and Bruckheimer then set up a real war machine intended to grab pocket money from teenagers around the world.

Flashdance: Jennifer Beals was dubbed by a man in the cult audition scene

Rewritten in full width by Joe Eszterhas (future screenwriter of Basic Instinct), the project still does not convince anyone at Paramount, but Simpson and Bruckheimer decide to not care, knowing full well that the main part of the project lies elsewhere. Their intuition: the future of Hollywood will necessarily depend on the colossal success of MTV. The two therefore put their all into music and surrounded themselves with the two FM tenors of the time, Giorgio Moroder and Phil Ramone, to throw around ten hits as a soundtrack – religiously hoping that the clips will be broadcast over and over again on teens’ new favorite channel.

When it was released in April 83, Flash dance got off to a sluggish start but ultimately remained in theaters for more than six months, displaying a maddening regularity in its box office scores – and more than $90 million cumulatively. “The film remained in theaters across the country until September! The music kept it going. It seemed like every week there was a new hit from the soundtrack to support the film.”, declared Barry London, then head of distribution at Paramount, a few years later. By plundering the MTV aesthetic, using its strength and its need to be supplied with hits as a real promotional support (free at that) for the film, Simpson and Bruckheimer had just brought Hollywood to its knees. They had seen the future of the industry, something that is obviously priceless.

Let’s be honest: yes Flash dance remains a turnip as irresistible as ever, it owes it not only to the boxes with the frenetic rhythms and the vintage synths which adorn the mega-hits “What A Feeling” And “Maniac”. Her dilettante writing gives her a real idiotic charm (the sexy dancer at night is also a filthy welder who eats triangle sandwiches during the day), her delicate concision allows her to spin in an instant, and her Jennifer Beals supra-hottie offers him absolutely delirious hormonal surges (which will have even traumatized the yet very piss-cold Nanni Morettias he admitted in his Personal diary).

The most exciting part of it obviously remains the strobe realization ofAdrian Lyne which transforms each micro-event (Alex meets a traffic policeman, Alex exercises with her friends, Alex takes off her bra) into a delicious choreographic feat, and sends each musical number into another dimension, where corniness collides the most total and the most breathtaking baroque.

If Flash dance is in its very conception only an object of appalling cynicism, a marketing bombshell where cinema is ultimately very secondary, it is also endowed with antibodies sufficiently robust to go beyond its simple function as a money machine, and to permeate lastingly the spirits. And that is perhaps the only element that the visionaries Simpson and Bruckheimer had not anticipated.

François Grelet

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