“Saturday Night Fever,” But It’s Not Really About That

Saturday Night Fever had been on my “movie watchlist” for ages. A thoughtful neighbor loaned it to me, after realizing I’d never seen it. That was the perfect motivation finally to view it.

The Review

I reviewed the movie on Letterboxd. In a nutshell, it’s good!

It’s surprisingly tense and uncomfortable, and paints an unflattering portrait of New York. That’s not entirely surprising, as movies set in New York in the 1970s painted a very dark portrait of the city. This wasn’t without cause, either. For all of the bluster about New York being a cultural center of American culture, the place has been typified by horrible crime, mafia corruption, and tribal attitudes.

It seems to be sliding back into the same madness, so I’m thrilled about the promise of more movies like Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver and French Connection. People can romanticize New York’s past all they want, but its hellish realities were projected onscreen in some of the best films ever to be created.

I’m not putting Saturday Night Fever in the same category as the all-time greats. It is, however, good and engaging.

It captures the despair of the working-class young in a big city. It also captures the hollow promises of nightclub living, and the spiteful ignorance of those who think only of their pleasure in the moment. Honestly, it reads in a lot of the same ways that Fight Club does.

But this isn’t really about that.

John Travolta Tony Manero Saturday Night Fever | kesseljunkie
It’s also not about dancing, sadly.

What It’s Really About

When you’re a movie fan, there are sometimes odd gaps in your movie viewing history. It’s not even intentional. A movie goes onto your list of things you want to watch. That list keeps growing, and it’s prioritized by recency and esteem.

A movie like Saturday Night Fever gets buried in a list like that. Sometimes watching it takes some sort of great gesture like a person putting a copy in your hand and saying, “Here, watch it, you have no excuse now.”

I wonder why that is, in this modern era. It kind of makes no sense.

At the touch of button I can access entire libraries of films that serve as cultural touchstones – like Saturday Night Fever – but they remain buried on that list despite my personal challenges that include watching 31 Movies in 31 Days. They remain buried despite my habit of watching Star Trek V: The Final Frontier so many times I have it memorized.

Colour Out of Space | kesseljunkie
My odd viewing habits did help me find “Color Out of Space,” though.

They remain buried despite my tendency to waste time watching bad movies to decompress.

Again, it makes no sense. With all the technological capability at my disposal, why would it seemingly be so difficult to get to classics and “important” films?

I’m legitimately puzzled by it. I make no oath to change my habits nor amend my selections so that I skip another viewing of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and catch one of those buried titles.

I should make that oath and amend my choices. I’m just honest enough to know that I won’t.

I just know I’m not alone in this. Someone must have the answer as to the why, though.

If you run across that person and happen to discuss it, let me know what they say.

2 thoughts on ““Saturday Night Fever,” But It’s Not Really About That

  1. First, “Fakers!” That’s what she says in the “edited for television” version when the guys pretend to fall off the bridge.

    Second, in the past couple years, I’ve gone out of my way to fill those gaps. I’ve seen Gremlins, Taxi Driver, Willow, etc., etc., etc. (One etc. by definition should always be enough.) Most movies don’t age well, but some certainly do (e.g., The Big Lebowski). I should rewatch SNF. I haven’t seen it since the 70s.

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