From now until the end of August we'll be celebrating Gene Kelly for his Centennial (August 23rd to be exact) so let's revisit Xanadu, which opened 32 years ago last night! It's a member of my Personal Canon... also known as "The movies I think about when I think about the movies"
"A Movie That Nobody Dares To Love"
A Broadway version of this 1980 classic opened on Broadway a few years back marking yet another jokey acknowledgement of Xanadu's kitsch value. It was high timeto rediscover the film in all of its enduring time-capsule glory. For Xanadu, you see, is not the tongue-in-cheek comedy that it was reworked as. It's a completely sincere endeavor and, I'd argue, endearingly so. It's not one of those films that are so intentionally bad that it's subversively excellent (see: Showgirls). No, Xanadu is the real deal: a straight-faced musical. It just had the terrible misfortune to celebrate a number of things that would be out of style almost immediately thereafter: roller rinks, disco, legwarmers, greek mythology, album covers … and Olivia Newton-John.
It's easy to dismiss Xanadu for the very things it shamelessly loves but it's a shame to dismiss the shameless if they're also compulsively watchable. What other movie gives you a glimpse into the lost profession of album cover illustration? None that I know of. In what other movie will you see Greek muses come to life from a painting on a brick wall? Even Clash of the Titans didn't have that. What other movie has the wacky chutzpah to give you a pop star as A list as Olivia Newton-John (she is strangely disregarded now but don't be fooled: she was an enormous star with dozens of hit songs) and put her on rollerskates and in only one outfit for almost an entire film?