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Australian comedy has a tendency to affectionately skewer people with small lives and big dreams. In Muriel’s Wedding, a frumpy ABBA fanatic channels her misguided desire to become a bride into a hilarious but heartwarming journey of self-discovery. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows a trio of provincial drag queens on an odyssey to honour a booking at a remote Central Australian casino resort. In Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 directorial debut Strictly Ballroom, the road to victory at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championships takes on near-operatic levels of intensity.
The first part of what became known as Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy, Strictly Ballroom lacks the Hollywood sheen of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, but in many ways this is to the film’s benefit. The space between the tunnel visioned ambition of Strictly Ballroom’s characters and the hilarious low stakes reality lend both humour and poignancy to the movie. Dance-offs may take place in the events hall of a seedy-looking local casino, but you better believe that they mean life and death to the perma-tanned, peroxide-haired participants. If their costumes are a little rough around the edges and their makeup somewhat heavy-handedly applied, it only serves to humanise the characters in a way that Luhrmann never quite managed to with his bigger, brighter and more respectable movies.
In addition to being fondly remembered for its inherently comic premise and a charming central romance between Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice), Strictly Ballroom can also lay claim to at least partially inspiring one of the most successful reality TV franchises of the past twenty years – Dancing With The Stars, known by the clumsier title of Strictly Come Dancing in the UK, where the show originated.
In this week’s episode we’re joined by dance fanatic Ellie Chalkley, host of unofficial Strictly Come Dancing podcast Keep Dancing, to discuss the movie’s legacy, its uniquely Australian aesthetic and its influence on the subsequent reality TV sensation. All that, plus a bumper-packed trio of sequel ideas to reunite the cast for one last crack at the perfect Bogo Pogo…
John’s Pitch | Strictly Ballroom 2: Hell Toupee
Ellie’s Pitch | Strictly, Strictly Ballroom
Harry’s Pitch | Strictly Disney
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If you have a great idea for a Strictly Ballroom sequel, we’d obviously love to hear it. Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or leave a comment below, and we’ll read out the best ones on a future episode.