Happily Stuck in the Disco Inferno

Does being born in and growing up in Brooklyn affect how viewers watch and react to Saturday Night Fever? Is it a matter of taste that affects critical analysis? Disco is an acquired taste, for sure, and perhaps it is difficult for people who lived through the era (or close-minded people who have blindly absorbed those negative opinions) to take the film seriously, but I recently encountered some fellow moviegoers of varying ages who had reached a consensus that disco was terrible and therefore the film is cheesy, trashy, silly.

What nonsense!

Maybe the format in which you initially experience the film makes a difference. My first time seeing Saturday Night Fever was on a summer afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Let me tell you, when those opening credits started rolling and John Travolta strutted down the avenue to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” it looked pretty great on MoMI’s screen and sounded pretty cool through MoMI’s excellent speakers. Bay Ridge never looked more inviting than in that introduction.

Throughout the film, the dancing sequences are so wonderful to watch that even for those who are opposed to disco it should be possible to appreciate the choreography of the routines performed by Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney and the other actors. Ralf D. Bode’s cinematography gives the scenes inside the 2001 Odyssey club an extra glow.

Also, the film has so much warmth. There’s a great deal of humor; characters have so many experiences relatable to middle-class families living in urban areas (you don’t specifically need to be an Italian-American living in Brooklyn); then there are all the other emotions that feel so real, so true to life. As coming-of-age narratives go, this one’s a keeper. So if it is considered outré for me to admit that I love Saturday Night Fever and that I treasure the soundtrack with its many Bee Gees songs, Tavares’ version of the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman,” Yvonne Elliman’s cover of the Bee Gees’ “If I Can’t Have You” and the Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” then this is one inferno that I am overjoyed to be consumed by.

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