Saturday Night Fever

dir. John Badham

TIFF Cinematheque - Hollywood Classics

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John Travolta struts his stuff on the dance floor as white-suited, swivel-hipped disco king Tony Manero in the Bee Gees-propelled pop-culture touchstone.

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What better way to shake a New Year's Eve hangover than to go strutting with swivel-hipped disco king Tony Manero? Living at home with his squabbling parents and trapped in a soul-killing job in a Brooklyn hardware store, the restless Tony leaves it all behind on Saturday night, donning a pristine white suit to catch fire on the flashing dance floor. When he and Manhattan-side girlfriend Stephanie enter a disco competition under the whirling mirror ball, the film turns into a gaudy paean to dance as deliverance. A true pop-culture phenomenon — the Bee Gees soundtrack topped the charts seemingly forever, and the film made a deeply dimpled and pompadoured John Travolta a household name and (alas) fashion template — Saturday Night Fever now appears as a fascinating time capsule of the pre-AIDS disco scene, in which "stayin' alive" meant something more than survival. Electrifying in its time and enthralling now, Fever is a certified classic. "These are among the most hypnotically beautiful pop dance scenes ever filmed. . . . At its best, Saturday Night Fever gets at something deeply romantic: the need to move, to dance, and the need to be who you'd like to be" (Pauline Kael).