Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

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beamish13
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Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#1 Post by beamish13 » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:24 pm

Has anyone here seen this very unusual neo-noir? I wouldn't call it a great movie in any respect, but its curious, off-kilter nature has burrowed into my mind
long after I last saw it. Tom Hulce plays a cartoonist for an L.A. Weekly-esque alternative press who gets involved with a mysterious blonde and assorted gangsters
in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It's not dissimilar to many other "man trapped in hell" films from the 80's like AFTER HOURS, SOMETHING WILD, and INTO THE NIGHT, but it's definitely grimier and stranger than any of those titles.

Wang apparently used part of his salary on it to help finance LIFE IS CHEAP...BUT TOILET PAPER IS EXPENSIVE (1989), which is included on some DVDs of CHINESE BOX (1997).

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John Cope
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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#2 Post by John Cope » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:48 pm

I love the film (interestingly enough, I just recently rewatched it and posted a few things about it on Facebook). And I do think it's a pretty great movie actually. It's been dismissed over the years by many who see it as just a soulless for-hire job, over saturated in noir pastiche but that's extremely unfair to all its singular, unique qualities, including the strangeness of tone you mention. The style is impressive and unapologetic in its excess but Wang does not consign that style merely to aesthetic acccent or surface sheen. It's a crucial mode of storytelling, one that allows for the whole experience to be processed as heightened dream remove.

That's a perfect Mulholland Drive complement to the Hollywood setting but it's also about emphasizing the film's particular strangeness once again, primarily its use of Hulce's hero. He's barely heroic in any conventional sense but just as barely an anti-hero. What he is is an almost entirely passive observer of his own involvement in the unspooling noir proceedings, a fundamental analogue to our own position as passive spectators for Hollywood product (the almost perfunctory confrontation with arch villain Bobby Nye is proof enough of that). I also love the figure of the hit man played by screenwriter Don Opper. He is little real threat, too, traumatized as he is by the very idea of having had to "take out" someone he loved. It's really not a thriller at all but rather a poignant examination of living in the shadow or specter of a tragic loss, a monumentally affecting passing (I still stand by the position that this film should have permanently turned Virginia Madsen into an icon, going far beyond femme fatale--her brief appearances and lasting presence saturate everything). And on another note you've got to love its appropriate inversions of all the standard genre cliches (e.g. if you pull your teeth out in the first act..., etc.).

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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#3 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Tue Mar 03, 2015 10:48 pm

Always wanted to see WW's Slam Dance, but have never gotten around to it. The one time I tried to watch this, it was an old pan & scan print that I just couldn't get through.

I know the DVD is still available, but would prefer this on Blu - though I know that's unlikely, given it's obscurity...

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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#4 Post by jason80 » Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:21 am

Went back and watched it again yesterday, and I just have to say I love having a thriller where the main character is hounded to catch his lover's killer, not by her ghost, but by the killer. This movie works for me and always has.

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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#5 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Tue Mar 10, 2015 2:24 pm

I watched Slam Dance in it's entirety earlier this week. Great flick!

Liked the late '80's vibe, including the quirky editing & the rock/pop soundtrack - this sounded like Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo?! I would definitely classify this film as a neo-noir, i.e. the innocent guy being framed & on the run for something(s) he didn't do, the beautiful blonde femme fatale (V. Madsen - even though she was just seen in flashbacks), the dark night sequences, the menacing characters in the shadows, etc.

I will say that my enjoyment of the film was quite hampered by the pan & scan/full-screen cut I saw, as well as the sub-par PQ. Many of the night-time scenes were tough to make out because of this.

Though some may disagree with me on this, I actually think this film is Criterion-worthy - hopefully it will be released on Blu/DVD at some point on the Criterion label, with cleaned-up PQ & the correct anamorphic print...note I'm not sure this film has been released in the correct aspect ratio, since I haven't seen the DVD of the film.

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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:28 pm

I don't think the MGM is pan and scan, pretty sure it's open matte. And you'd be better off hoping for a Shout Factory or Olive or Kino release. I don't think it's impossible for it to come to blue, but I wouldn't hold your breath for Criterion

EDIT: the MGM DVD contains both widescreen and full-frame versions, not sure why AW only watched the fullframe

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Re: Slam Dance (Wayne Wang, 1987)

#7 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:00 am

domino harvey wrote:I don't think the MGM is pan and scan, pretty sure it's open matte. And you'd be better off hoping for a Shout Factory or Olive or Kino release. I don't think it's impossible for it to come to blue, but I wouldn't hold your breath for Criterion
Thanks for the info. Yes, I figured a Blu Criterion release of Slam Dance was/is extremely unlikely.

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