Video Review: David Bowie “Let’s Dance”

A semi-truck passes by the parking lot of the  Australian bar,  Carinda Hotel.

A smashed radio floats in the air, its part returning in place and back on a man’s shoulder.

Inside the bar, people drink. In the corner, David Bowie plays his guitar while a young couple dances.

The couple leaves the bar and finds a pair of red shoes on the sand. The young woman puts them on and starts to dance.

They hear a snap and the sky turns red with a white volcanic swirl. It switches to a shimmering aqua blue and the young man squints from the bright light.

The young man pounds on some metal in a factory. Two of his supervisors, a woman wearing red shoes and carrying a folder and a man with glasses (Bowie) instruct him to meet his quota. He looks at the machine, defeated.

He pulls the machine down the busy New York street.

The female supervisor walks onto the steps of the porch where the young woman scrubs the pavement. Invisible, she looks up, questioning the American Dream. She scrubs the cross walk and there, her boyfriend stands, out of breath and sweaty.The scene is paused as Bowie’s face is imposed on the left side of the screen.

The young couple walk in the city. They stop at a jewelery store where a salesman presents a bracelet to the young man. He buys it on his American Express card. They walk the beach and tour the museum. They eat at five-star restaurants. They pass by a display of the red shoes and pause. Bowie’s face is imposed below the display.

Back in Australia, she stamps on the red shoes, breaking the soles. The couple walks up to the mountain and views the New York City skyline. As Bowie plays in the scorching sun, the couple dances on top of the mountain.

Bowie playing the guitar is split with two black-and-white images: the young couple in Australia and New York City to the right. An orange handprint fills the screen.

Rating: 4/5

For the young couple in Australia, they grew up wanting to experience America, idolizing the possibilities it would give them. A pair of red shoes allows them to view their dream. However, once in the United States, they are working menial jobs and treated as invisible by society. Pulling a machine or scrubbing the street only causes people to roll their eyes and the occasional shout of “move” by an impatient driver.

While in New York, they eventually improve themselves and then get caught up in the materialism. They ignore the mom-and-pop vendors and chose to eat at expensive restaurants and buy designer goods. Art has lost its meaning and behind the velvet rope, they draw below it, mocking the painting with their own commentary. When they pass by the red shoes again, they think of who they were before and how much they’ve changed. They haven’t talked to their parents much as they have become focused on themselves and shop on their time off.

Back home, they think of New York but believe they made the right decision to return. America, as they learned, is not the progressive country it was proclaimed to be. The only way to acclimate their way into mainstream society was to give up their identity. Their skin tone still determined how they were treated.

Director: David Mallet Year: 1983

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