I just finished watching the movie Le Week-end, directed by Roger Michell with screenplay by Hanif Kureishi; a British couple decide to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, hoping to rediscover their love for each other and perhaps also their own self-esteem. It’s a wonderful little film which falls into that same sub-genre of ‘bittersweet marriage drama’ and includes movies like Hope Springs (2012, *ing Meryl Streep & Tommy Lee Jones) and of course, Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (2013, *ing Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy). I was pleasantly surprised by the uplifting final scene in which the three main characters – played by Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent and Jeff Goldblum – re-enact the ‘Madison dance’ from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 classic Bande à Part. It made me think of all the other occasions an unexpected dance sequence in the middle of a regular movie has gone on to become the signature scene in the film. Here are my favourites in no particular order:-
Bande à Part (1964): The film chronicles the planning and execution of a robbery by 3 friends – Odile, Franz and Arthur, but it’s just as much about their unstructured and impulsive lifestyles. In the ‘Madison Dance Scene’, the three characters perform an impromptu dance routine in a Paris café; the music cuts in and out and we also have the narrator adding some voice-over commentary.
Pulp Fiction (1994): Quentin Tarantino’s 2nd film features multiple interrelated storylines, an approach which suddenly became popular several years later in films like Amores Perros, Babel, Traffic and Crash. However, Pulp Fiction is probably just as well known for John Travolta and Uma Thurman doing the twist. There is a very brief scene at a party in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, with two actors dancing the twist which looks exactly like this. Many film fans have commented on the similarity. Anyway, Pulp Fiction made Travolta an A-list star again after nearly two decades in movie wilderness.
Be Cool (2005): Audiences couldn’t forget the couple, so nine years later in the sequel to Get Shorty, the filmmakers contrived to get Travolta and Thurman on the dance floor once again; this sequence is less ‘for show’ and sexier. Thurman has the curves and the moves. The song they are dancing to is being performed live by the Black Eyed Peas.
Come September (1961): A dance scene which is somewhat similar in terms of setting, tone and actors’ chemistry is from one of my all-time favourite romantic comedies. Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida light up the screen with this night club sequence; could there ever be a more heart-stoppingly good looking on-screen couple? (Alain Delon and Monica Vitti in L’Eclisse perhaps, but they didn’t dance! Indian viewers will immediately see where Shammi Kapoor learned his patented dance moves.
Beetlejuice (1988): This film introduced me to the music of Harry Belafonte through this absolutely hilarious and oh-too-short dinner time possession sequence. The song of course, is Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), also performed memorably by Mr. Belafonte on The Muppet Show.
Enchanted (2007): This mild send-up by Disney of their own princess films is not really my kind of movie, but there’s no denying that this impromptu song sequence in a park – Hindi movie style – is both catchy and entertaining.
(500) Days of Summer (2009): Two years later, this quirky romantic comedy copied the same setting and got JGL and Zooey Deschanel to dance to the sounds of Hall & Oates’ Make My Dreams Come True. Would be nice to see Marc Webb would go back to directing these kinds of movies, now that he’s done with the Amazing Spider-Man movies.