New York City's High School for the Performing Arts is a pressure-cooker environment. We follow eight talented hopefuls from the emotional rush of auditions in everything from jazz, ballet, fine art and contemporary music to graduation. In the four years between, romantic opposites pair off; ballet snob Hilary (Antonia Franceschi) and streetwise black dancer Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray); wallflower Dorris (Maureen Teefy) and rebel Ralph (Barry Miller); confident singer-dancer Coco (Irene Cara) and quiet genius Bruno (Lee Curreri). There's also ugly duckling Lisa (Laura Dean) and closet gay Montgomery (Paul McCrane). They all rely on each other for solace and support as they strive for fame.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
In comparison to the exuberant, emotionally charged television show it later inspired, Alan Parker's 1980 film is a fairly flat disappointment from go to whoa. Well received at the time but horribly dated now, the film won Oscars for Score and Song, and was even nominated for Screenplay (?). Along with other musical-inspired 80s movies such as Footloose, Flashdance and Perfect, it is generally regarded a camp (or even tragic) classic now. Much like Parker's own hysterical gangster-kids spoof, Bugsy Malone, which featured some soulful musical numbers between tommy guns that shoot marshmallows. In Fame, the tempo is more upbeat, uplifting and inspiring, as the raw but eclectic freshmen blossom into talented entertainers and artists. The music and dance numbers seem to burst spontaneously from the sheer emotion of it all, with key routines including Red Light, I Sing the Body Electric, Hot Lunch Jam, and the catchy signature theme, Fame ("I'm gonna live forever").
While this 133-minute movie doesn't deliver the emotional punch you get in the TV series later (which was better cast and scripted - only four stars reprised their roles), the DVD is a satisfying experience for anyone interested in performing arts. As we learn throughout the many features, the school is based on The Fiorello H. LaGuardia School of Music Art and the Performing Arts (attended by the likes of Jennifer Aniston), and was/is the most prestigious school of its kind in America. The "Class Reunion" commentary with Alan Parker and original class members is an interesting (if detailed) trip back in time. Parker recalls the gruelling choreography process and the importance of realism, and how he ditched the original title after he found a porno of the same name. The Vintage Featurette is a 12-minute on-location piece shot in
Check out the amusing Richard Symmons hairdos and the cast interviews interlaced with footage from the film. There's the ensemble 46th Street dance number and Parker's real thoughts on the acting ability of the cast. The disc's best feature, however, is the Field Trip, a sad but true documentary on the real LaGuardia fame school, where teachers and administrators tell why 15,000 students a year clamour for 750 places. Complete with auditions, art tours and teacher/student introductions, this is one doco that makes you glad you aren't an artist. The DVD's comprehensive package wraps with an extensive 12-part Interview Gallery and the original trailer.
Fame is meant to be a hip urban musical about hope and glory, but it's more an amusing musical time-capsule where roller skates, legwarmers, leotards, frizzy hair and flailing bodies struggle their way to the top. What Parker captures, mostly, is an enjoyable portrait of brazen teenage ambition.
Published November 6, 2003
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FAME: DVD (M)
(US) - 1980
CAST: Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee Curreri
DIRECTOR: Alan Parker
SCRIPT: Christopher Gore
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1:85:1, 16:9 enhanced Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Class Reunion Commentary, Vintage Featurette, Fame Field
Trip, Interview Gallery, Theatrical Trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
DVD RELEASE: November 12, 2003