Baz Luhrmann's "Strictly Ballroom" (1992) started life as a stage play in 1986. His independent theatrical troupe, "The Six Years Old Company", revived it internationally on several occasions for many years. For the cinematic version, Luhrmann's film debut, it became a multi-award winner.
Scott (Paul Mercurio), is a talented dancer who dreams of winning the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. His maverick approach flies in the face of the rituals of ballroom dance and sees him being threatened with disbarment and without a partner. Enter the clumsy and visually challenged Fran (Tara Morice). Together, they do it their way and make their dreams of the National Championship title come true.
The plot is blatantly familiar, a romance blossoming between an unlikely pair, and they go on to conquer all, against all the opposition. But add Luhrmann's flamboyant style and you have a film that has a vibrant energy.The cinematography is dazzling with Luhrmann's use of brash colours. The dancing is thrilling to watch, enhanced more by the slick editing and rousing score. Luhrmann sends up the peculiar rituals of ballroom dancing without making them look ridiculous. And the transformation of Fran's ugly duckling into the beautiful swan is convincing.
Luhrmann's inventiveness brought him prizes galore. With eight Australian Film Institute Awards, three BAFTAs and the Cannes Film Festival's Prix de Jeunesse, he's shown that although a story may be formulaic, it's the way you tell it that determines success.