Swing Kids

“Hey so something amazing happened last weekend. I finished watching the last of the DVD’s from that video store? You forgot about that already? In June (and the tail end of May), I bought about 100 movies for cheap from a video store that was closing. For those keeping score at home, it took a solid 3.5 months to get thru ’em, so now we know. I still have some DVD’s of Big Love (only done with season 1 of 5 so far), but that’s not a movie, so they don’t count.

The movie that ended up in the last spot (until I soon bought more) in my inventory, randomly assigned as I grabbed things was Swing Kids. I’d kinda decided that I would blog the last movie I watched, and this seemed like a good candidate, so I kept it on top of the pile while it was hidden in a Whole Foods bag. That way, I could reach in and pick something blindly rather that staring at 100 DVD’s trying to pick what was next.

Swing Kids stars an itty bitty Robert Sean Leonard (though less bitty than in Dead Poets Society) and an itty bitty Christian Bale (slightly less itty than Newsies). They are very close friends growing up in Nazi Germany who have a fascination with American swing music. The boys live for the secret dance clubs and record stores where they can listen and dance and have fun like young boys are wont to do. But, of course, this is Nazi Germany and such frivolous and un-German things are frowned upon. Things get complicated and the boys find themselves drifting in different directions amid the conflict.

It’s a pretty powerful film and an interesting look at an unexplored subculture. So many stories and films have come out of this era, and it’s surprising to find that there are still so many untapped angles. The kids are incredible (it’s no wonder they’ve found success in the bigger and better they went on to…Leonard will always be Wilson to me, and I’m sure I don’t have to remind you what Bale went on to. They’re so good here, that costar Kenneth Branagh (yes that Oscar nominee and Shakespeare expert, and somehow director of Thor) refused to accept billing for his role, rather than being listed above the kids.

This also has to have one of the best soundtracks for this style of music. It’s not the sort of thing I’d listen to regularly, but most of the tunes were so familiar from various sources (many of which may have been DWTS routines). I texted the BFFF, who is big into swing dancing, and told him he had to watch this movie. He replied that it’d been on his list for a while and that the film’s version of one particular song featured prominently comes up often at many dances.

Actually, yeah let’s talk about the scene where Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen is featured. For me, that was the most powerful scene. Leonard’s Peter has basically hit bottom, and he’s frantically dancing his feelings out. Okay, that sounds hokey. But as a dancer, I connect with him and I’m moved by him. The way he expresses his frustrations with his movement says more to me than any dialog could. I also know first hand how cathartic dancing can be. One of the single best dance classes I ever had was on a night when I was royally pissed off about something (which doesn’t happen to me often), so I just danced angrily and quickly and harder than I ever have, and just felt such a release from it. I love how beautifully that’s captured here.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got that clip on repeat, and I think I’ll watch it a couple more times”

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