Picture yourself on a starless night, flashing strobe lights illuminating the surrounding darkness like multi-coloured stars. This night is typical, having repeated itself century after century; but it’s also renowned, in The Age of Plastic, as the night that video killed the radio star — there, amidst the darting beams and deafening bass, as pixels activate on a screen in the background, and dancers prance in a warehouse wild and free, some secretly coupled as the cool rainbow of lights rain over their hot bodies.
Not surprisingly, under the heat of the strobe lights, and with the new sensations on their dewy skin, few stopped to think of the night’s aftermath, and what video’s success meant to the radio star.
Didn’t anyone love the radio star?
Yes. But he was gazing into a gutted chicken rather that meeting her eye, and injecting “uh-huh” as if it was adequate conversation stuffing.
Such neglect underpins and motivates the characters in Sarah Polley’s film: Take This Waltz.
We meet the female lead, Margot (Michelle Williams), while she’s sleepwalking through another day of married life. But as she bubbles alive, her inattentive husband Lou (Seth Rogen) is also irreverently awoken; at which point you’re tempted to choose sides.
Take This Waltz asks you to investigate the power of attraction, a concept powerfully illustrated in a pool scene where Margot and Daniel (Luke Kirby) frolic like dolphins in an aquarium– chasing one another with no purpose other than the thrill of the chase and the love of each other’s company. Watching them convinces us that while swimming can be like dancing, and is expected to be refreshing, it can also inflame.
Throughout the film, dullness adds perspective. For example, at a rather dull venue in Nova Scotia, a historical re-enactment leads to some S&M-ish business; In an empty Toronto watering hole, a plain couple sparkles unexpectedly; And in a little row house kitchen, nightly chicken dinners cultivate the desire for beefier mains.
I was eager to see this city on screen and from another’s perspective, but struggled with the idea that Toronto isn’t as rambunctious as New York or as electric as Tokyo, and so could really be as dull as it appears on screen. In the end, I ascribed the divergence to the fact that the movie portrays the life of one extended family as they come in contact with others. It is not an in-depth look at the city and all its diverse parts, a limitation possibly attributable to budget and directorial focus.
Counterbalancing the prosaic city are vivid emotional connections between people and place. After all, without personal experiences, locations are forgettable. A good case in point occurred today as a friend reminisced about summers on the log ride at Centre Island’s amusement park. It was so much fun for him in his childhood that he plans to bring his daughter there, and that reminded me of the sequence in this movie where two, as of yet, friends, ride the Scrambler to a song well-known for launching MTV nearly 31 years ago, and which introduced this piece: Video Killed the Radio Star (Video).
A synthpop song by the Buggles, from their first album: The Age of Plastic, Video adds euphoria to a nostalgic place for Margot and for many Torontonians whose summers were spent chilling out on Centre Island.
On the power of these potent memories the aforementioned Scrambler scene proves more emotive than those featuring raunchy sex, which although it adds a metaphoric element, muddies the image of the lovers’ future.
The young couples or mature adults who are the film’s target audience won’t be shocked by the sex scenes. But they may conclude that more than enough is revealed physically when they could’ve let their imaginations excel at filling in the blanks.
Take this Waltz, which I kept trying to finish with, “and shove it,” aims to push complacent couples and even singles into greater understanding of what it takes to love and endure. The film’s title is less aggressive than I’m tempted to make it, however, with the name coming from a thoughtful Leonard Cohen song heavy with metaphors about love.
With that knowledge, the film’s title makes sense. Love is the music we share, so Take this Waltz with open arms, unafraid, and dance. When you’re tired, we’ll understand if you change the tune.